MTSU’s Undergraduate Research Center and its Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity grant offer students the opportunity to conduct hands-on and impactful research that’s helped several recent graduates earn top-tier education and career experience placements.
Greg Van Patten, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, said getting involved in undergraduate research puts students in a completely different trajectory in terms of their careers.
“They’re able to learn things and do things, solve problems that are different from the kinds of things that they deal with in classes,” Van Patten said. “Students will ask me: Are they going to get course credit for it? Are they going to get paid for it? Does it need to be done during the academic year, or can they come back in the summer and do it? And the answer is yes.”
Jared Frazier, who graduated with a computer science degree in May, is starting a remote machine learning summer internship at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, before moving to the Netherlands for a graduate computational science program at the University of Amsterdam this fall.
“The university is one of the best schools in Europe, and their machine learning research groups are also world-renowned, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to improve and produce more great research,” Frazier said.
He said his MTSU research experience was fantastic for practicing writing grant proposals, executing research in a professional environment and communicating the results at conferences and for publication.
“The research that I’ve done has shaped both my academic and personal goals tremendously,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to not only delve deep into a particular subject that might interest you but also learn methods and strategies that are applicable outside of just that research domain.”
Sophie Taylor, who earned a bachelor’s in chemistry, will go straight into a doctoral chemistry program at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, this fall.
She said MTSU professors are eager to meet with undergrads and talk with them about their research.
“I was able to work full time over the summer doing research, coming into the lab every day,” Taylor said. “I felt like I got to glimpse that future for myself, and I loved it. So I’m very, very happy that I’m going to be doing that in grad school now too.”
Alison Blanton, who graduated with an animal science bachelor’s degree, earned a spot at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville’s veterinary school. She strongly recommends that MTSU undergraduates get involved in research and said that professors are very open to including students in their research.
“The professors here are very open … especially if you show that you have a passion, an interest in what you’re doing,” Blanton said. “Talk to professors that you already know, because they’re going to be the ones that kind of know your personality, your work ethic and what you want to do.”
DaVonte Lewis, who earned a bachelor’s in physics, will attend John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, this fall for a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics and novel quantum materials. Engaging in research gave him a better understanding of what he could do in the field and had an impact on the path he ended up choosing.
“I would definitely recommend getting involved in research as soon as possible,” Lewis said. “It sort of gives you perspective once again on what you’re learning, an understanding of why all this information is being crammed into your head and what it’s useful for.”
Maria Clark, who recently completed her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, starts medical school at the University of Kentucky this fall. Researching in MTSU labs allowed her to learn techniques that she would not necessarily get from classes.
“I know the lab components of a lot of classes try to teach you some of that, but just the time constraint of actual class time keeps back being able to really learn more in depth,” Clark said.
“The experience at this level has really impacted my success in being able to get into a post-grad program. I’ve told many people I don’t think I’ve ever had a medical school interview that didn’t ask me about me about my research experience.”
To learn more about research opportunities for MTSU undergraduates, visit the Undergraduate Research Center website at www.mtsu.edu/urc.
— Stephanie Barrette (Stephanie.Barrette@mtsu.edu)