Office of Undergraduate Research secures permanent funding
After two years of temporary funding, the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) at the University of West Florida has secured a recurring budget, which will result in better planning for the program and more opportunities for current and future students.
In the past, students performing research at UWF did not have many sources of direct funding to present their work at conferences, but now the OUR can provide that, along with supply money for faculty mentors and stipends that pay students to conduct research.
“Undergraduate students now have access to an enormous opportunity,” said Pamela Vaughan, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at UWF. “Since the OUR defines research as any scholarly activity, these funds are available to all UWF students wishing to work on a project or present their results at a conference.”
Each year, students who participate in the program present their findings at the Student Scholars Symposium and many travel to national conferences to present.
“UWF is in a unique position to offer these incredible opportunities to undergraduates,” said Vaughan. “We provide one-on-one mentoring of students by faculty and access to technology that may not be available at larger institutions.”
Faculty mentoring is a critical part of the experience which establishes a relationship that begins with the research experience and continues long after the students graduate.
According to Vaughan, many top-tier graduate programs in the country place a high priority on students who have completed or published research. Completing this research at the undergraduate level gives students a huge leg up on the competition.
“Beyond the obvious benefits of learning these skills before graduating, studies have shown that students who participate in research or scholarly activities are more confident, have improved GPAs and time management skills,” said Vaughan.
Research also helps students to pull various skills and knowledge they have acquired from a variety of classes into accomplishing one, focused objective.
“This experience in many ways is the glue that gathers together and solidifies everything they have learned,” said Vaughan. “As a result of the experience, they have improved confidence which translates to improved performance in their coursework.”
The OUR program is housed in the UWF Honors program and works collaboratively with Research & Sponsored Programs and the Graduate School at UWF, in organizing the annual Student Scholars Symposium. Students wishing to begin research are encouraged to contact the OUR.
“UWF has always done a special job of giving undergraduates opportunities to work beside top notch researchers,” said Jane Halonen, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “However, the permanent funding of the OUR represents a commitment to this best practice that will broaden and improve the caliber of experience for students and faculty alike. This apprentice model training can become one of our quality benchmarks.”
For more information on the OUR, visit http://uwf.edu/our/.