Academics & Research News

Office of Undergraduate Research offers new Navigate app features

The Office of Undergraduate Research is offering several new features, including various webinars and appointments, via the Navigate app for Spring 2021. | Sydney Rose/The Cougar

The Office of Undergraduate Research is offering several new features, including various webinars and appointments, via the Navigate app for Spring 2021. | Sydney Rose/The Cougar

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards is offering several new features, including various webinars and appointments via the Navigate app for Spring 2021.

These updates are among a string of initiatives that began in the fall to push more students to pursue research during their undergraduate careers. Other efforts include a newly created and highly active Instagram page

The Undergraduate Research at UH webinar series launched in Fall 2020 to reach out to students and get them more interested in research. These fall webinars included a presentation on the Institutional Review Board process for undergraduates, a winter research planning workshop and a panel discussion on equity, diversity and inclusion in research.

According to OURMA associate director Brittni MacLeod, the spring webinars will be slightly different. She plans on having three webinars on creating research posters ahead of the April Undergraduate Research Day, time management in graduate school and how to publish research.

MacLeod is satisfied with the turnout at these webinars.

“Some weeks, we have 10-15 people register and they all attend; other weeks, we’ll have 50 registrants and around 40 attend,” MacLeod said. “We understand it can be hard to carve out time to attend webinars on top of classes, work and family or social obligations, so we also record most of these webinars.”

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics junior Omar Harb is one of the students who hasn’t been able to attend the live webinars, but he keeps up with the recordings in his free time. OURMA recently awarded him a Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship to study mental health disparities between immigrants and non-immigrants.

Harb enjoys receiving “responsive, helpful and polite” answers to the questions he sends to OURMA’s Instagram page, but he hopes to see more publicized research opportunities because “it can be frustratingly difficult to be a part of research as an undergraduate student.”

Political science and public relations junior Maia Mendoza, another PURS recipient for Spring 2021, has attended several of OURMA’s virtual webinars, including the PURS Kick-Off Event and the Undergraduate Research Poster Event.

“They’ve all been very informal and given me guidance on how to finalize my research,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza also expressed her satisfaction with the recently created OURMA Instagram.

“It’s kept me much more in the loop with upcoming deadlines and new opportunities,” Mendoza said. “I also now know who to contact if I have any questions, and I really like that they’re posting their scholars on their social media; it makes the experience much more personal.”

The Office of Undergraduate Research also began allowing students to schedule appointments with OURMA staff via the Navigate app. MacLeod said this choice was made because students already use the app for other appointments and activities on campus. 

The app’s notes feature also makes it possible for the office to keep tabs on each student regardless of which OURMA staff member he or she reaches out to.

“My goal with Navigate is to help more students get started in research earlier in their academic careers and become competitive candidates for fellowships and major awards,” MacLeod said. “Navigate has filled my calendar for the month of January and it has been so fun!”

MacLeod has been “very happy” with how many students have been making appointments and attending webinars to learn more about the Houston Early Research Experience and Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship this upcoming summer, as well as the Fall 2021 PURS program.

“I hope they will log out of our webinars feeling empowered, knowing that research does exist in their disciplines and they are capable of pursuing such opportunities,” MacLeod said. “We are here to be supportive of students who want to ask questions, create solutions to real-world problems and engage with the world around them.”

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