Forum addresses research opportunities

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Unlike other universities, research institutions such as the UA have the potential to offer students an opportunity to get hands-on experience in research projects.

But the university must do more to extend these opportunities to more students, according to about 15 faculty members who attended the third discussion of a four-part series on the future of a research university yesterday.

In a research methods class, students design and follow through with a research project, said Sallie Marston, the acting head of the women’s studies department. She says more classes across the university could easily teach and encourage “research style thinking.”

John Schwarz, a political science professor and president-elect of the Faculty Senate, placed an ad with the Honors Center and now has six undergraduate students working on various aspects of his research grant.

“It has been a rewarding experience for them and me,” he said. “They do things I would have had to spend time on so instead I spend time on them (the students).”

If all political science professors involved eight to ten students per year in their research projects, all department students could be involved in research by the time they graduated, he said.

Examples of undergraduate research like these are already going on at the UA, but giving opportunities like these to students needs to be encouraged so that it becomes a rule rather than an exception, the faculty members said.

But other faculty members, such as Materials Science Engineering professor Dunbar Birnie, said they think it would be “almost impossible to provide in any organized manner, for the inclusion of all undergraduates in research.”

Budget constraints make it impossible to purchase enough equipment, such as specimen samples and microscopes. Many students do not have the skills necessary to participate in research or are not ready to make the time commitment.

Instead, students who are interested should be encouraged to take advantage of opportunities for extracurricular opportunities to get involved in research projects for credit or pay, Birnie said.

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