The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 1st

Fellowships support research

Students reach out to professors

Select undergraduate students forego a summer at the beach to pursue one of UNC’s multiple research opportunities.

Those interested can apply for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships through the Office for Undergraduate Research.

The office expects to give out at least 60 individual awards of $3,000 each this summer, according to its website.

There are also special awards for students involved in the Honors Program or pursuing community-based research.

Patricia Pukkila, associate dean of undergraduate research, said the office is always trying to recruit students in fields other than science.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh research, that’s just for the kids in the lab. I’m an English major,’” she said. “Well, no, actually it is for you too.”

Pukkila says interested students should talk to their professors. Often professors can connect students with colleagues working on specific research.

Jacqueline Hagan, a professor of sociology, took an interested undergraduate to Mexico last summer to research return migration.

“It is important for students to take initiative,” Hagan said.

Hagan also emphasized the value of motivation and discipline in undergraduate researchers.

Kenneth Barshop and Eric Butter are good examples of driven students who successfully realized their original research project.

They spent the summer after their freshman year in Cleveland, Miss., at a health clinic. They tested a relationship between the high rate of Type II Diabetes in rural Mississippi and socio-economic and lifestyle factors.

“As for having done it after freshman year,” Barshop said. “I had been fortunate to have enough research experience in high school so that I knew a bit about the research process.”

Their research was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s STEP-UP program, which gives funds to high school students and undergraduates conducting original research, and by the Robertson Scholars Program.

Barshop and Butter’s faculty adviser was a Duke University professor, but Barshop said UNC professors are also very supportive of undergraduate students’ research.

“Even the best researchers here are always incredibly eager to offer research positions to dedicated undergraduate students,” he said.

Graduate students also often look to undergraduates for help in their research.

Erin Stevens Nelson, an archaeology graduate student, has been working with some undergraduates on her research this semester.

“Working with undergrads in the field and in the lab has been a great collaborative experience for me and I hope for my students as well,” Nelson said.  

“The program gives undergraduates the chance to learn research skills from a more experienced researcher and it gives me the chance to improve my teaching and communication skills.”

Nelson is currently looking for undergraduates interested in doing excavations in three residential neighborhoods in Mississippi.

“All I ask is that students are enthusiastic about learning and not afraid to get their hands dirty.”

Contact the University Desk at university@dailytarheel.com.

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