This week, UNC is holding its semi-annual University Research Week, with multiple events planned each day that cover a wide array of topics.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Joyce Tan, who was involved in the planning of Research Week, said the event is how the University attempts to connect undergraduates to research activity on campus.
UNC oversees $1.05 billion worth of research activities, and the University offers opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students to get involved. For junior Jared Richards, a quantitative biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, research at UNC has been an important source of opportunity in his education.
Richards works in the Castillo Laboratory in Murray Hall, studying erosion caused by bivalves on corals in different coral reef tracts. He also had an internship with the Smithsonian Institution where he was able to, among other tasks, study cephalopod samples the Institution had collected. Richards said his research and the opportunities he has received from UNC have solidified his plans to attend a graduate program.
“I think there’s enough research at this school where you can really find what stuff you like and what stuff you don’t like,” Richards said. “The graduate student that I work with, he’s amazing, and I just want to do what he does. Your entire work is just research. That sounds fantastic, at least to me.”
Keith Rogers, a doctoral student majoring in biological and biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine, has made use of the research tools on campus to study the effects of different smoking products, like e-cigarettes, on respiratory health. Rogers said the research opportunities available at the University were a major factor in his decision to attend the graduate program at UNC.
“It’s actually amazing how much opportunity that UNC actually has for their students,” Rogers said. “They always have seminars, they’re always doing talks, things like that that are always available to you as a student. They really do give you all the resources to get as involved as you want in your career, and I really do appreciate that.”
Though some of the Research Week events on Monday and Tuesday were cancelled because of main water line break in Carrboro, Tan said there are still many opportunities available, as the most important parts of the event are happening later in the week. These include symposiums, showcases and talks all about research that has been done and about how to use the school’s resources.
“I absolutely think it is awesome,” Richards said. “I think for the other students on campus, the big thing is actually seeing people your age doing that kind of stuff. I think that, at least for me, is what I think is probably one of the most important aspects of Research Week.”
Richards also said Research Week is an effective way to show how science can be "cool," despite the stigma that surrounds it.
Tan said the research highlighted during Research Week is oftentimes environmental, but there is also a focus on several other areas, like cancer research, that makes the event highly diverse.
The week brings scientists from different fields together in a way that might not have happened otherwise, Rogers said.
“Sometimes, you’re in a lab, and you don’t know what everyone else is doing, but through Research Week, you’re enriched by other scientists that may or may not be in the same field as you,” Rogers said. “With the abundance of knowledge that can be in one area at one time, you can learn so much, and science can progress further with new ideas being bounced around.”
Ranked sixth in universities for federal research in the U.S., UNC provides research experience for students at all levels.
“If they want to be a scientist, I think they should definitely start exploring as early as possible,” Richards said. “If you start getting in early, then you have higher opportunities to actually create something out of what you do.”
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