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Undergraduate Research

research students

Undergraduate research is an essential component of a baccalaureate degree program in chemistry. The department of chemistry has a well-established undergraduate research program comprising of six research courses starting from the freshman year. Research reports and papers written by chemistry undergraduate research students are sent to American Chemical Society in conjunction with the five-year evaluation of the chemistry program. Those reports have received high commendations from ACS.

Undergraduate Research is an essential component of the program.

One of the goals of the Department of Chemistry is to channel students to graduate school. In order to advance this goal, we have developed a rather elaborate undergraduate research program to use as a vehicle for integrating research and education at the baccalaureate level, giving the students an opportunity to develop research skills before entering graduate school. Each semester, twelve to fifteen chemistry students engage in undergraduate research.

During the summer, students engage in research here on campus, at industrial facilities, and at other academic institutions. Some of the research activity has been carried out at research laboratories abroad--in Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria-- where as many as ten chemistry students have spent ten weeks during the summer conducting natural products research.

While undergraduate research is used as a mechanism for preparing students for graduate school, it is understood that not every chemistry graduate will pursue advanced study in the area. However, it is believed that even if graduate study is not pursued, the research skills acquired will be useful in industrial jobs or related scientific careers.

Chemistry students who engage in research fall in four categories:

  1. Participants of special projects and programs: Students who receive financial support from special programs. They are required to register for a research course each semester and work with an assigned mentor.
  2. Research assistants in faculty research programs: Occasionally, faculty members who receive grants from federal agencies and other sources have provisions for including undergraduate students in their research groups as Research Assistants. Typically, students in this category may or may not be required to register for a research course but are paid for services rendered.
  3. Volunteers: This category includes those students who seek to develop research skills whether or not they receive any financial remuneration.
  4. Summer Research Interns: This includes those who seek summer positions as interns in industry, national laboratories, or other institutions during the summer. Summer research activity is the most widely used and convenient way of participating in research by chemistry students.

In all cases, participating students are required or are strongly encouraged to enroll in appropriate research courses for which full reports are prepared and evaluated by the mentor for a grade. The research courses include CHE 114 at the freshman level, CHE 214 at the sopomore level, CHE 314 and 315 at the junior level, and CHE 414 and 415 at the senior level.

CHE 415, which is the highest research course, can be used in fulfillment of advanced level elective for certification by the American Chemical Society.

Features of the Undergraduate Research Program

  • Students are assigned to mentors.
  • Approximately ten hours must be devoted to research activity per week.
  • Involvement in research is expected to last at least four semesters.
  • Research can be done on campus and off campus.
  • Enrollment in research courses is required for all participants.
  • Academic credit is awarded upon submitting a report.

Value of Undergraduate Research

By engaging in undergraduate research, students accomplish the following behavioral objectives which are critical for success in graduate school:

  • They learn how to conduct independent scientific work.
  • They learn how to prepare scientific reports.
  • They learn how to prepare and present their work orally or as posters.
  • They learn how to do literature search.
  • Students improve their critical, analytical, and communication skills.

Collaboration With Other Departments

The Department of Chemistry provides service to and maintains strong professional collaboration with other disciplines, including the departments of Biological Science, Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, Mathematics, Physics, Chemical Engineering, and the School of Pharmacy.

Collaboration With Other Institutions

The Department of Chemistry has established and maintains strong ties with doctoral granting institutions. These relationships facilitate opportunities for student summer research experiences and graduate studies.