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Undergraduates find “transformative experience” through UTA’s sponsorship of new undergraduate research programs

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Media Contact: Louisa Kellie, Office: 817‑272‑0864, Cell: 817-524-8926, louisa.kellie@uta.edu

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The first cohort of Undergraduate Research Assistant, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program scholars and the University of Texas System-sponsored Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, scholars made one-minute presentations of their research conclusions to UTA’s Vice President for Research and their mentors. 

Peter Zotor studies biochemistry at UTA and plans to attend medical school. One of the first cohort of 21 undergraduates who received $3,000 to pursue undergraduate research over the summer, he described the new UTA-sponsored Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program as a “transformative experience.”

“The program transformed my thinking, my mindset,” Zotor said. “It taught me time management, how to meet certain deadlines and put me in a different place.” Zotor did his research under the mentorship of Junha Jeon, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

His classmate Wahib Muhammad, who is studying finance and was mentored by UTA associate professor of finance David Rakowski, concurred that the program had changed his views and professional aims.

“Before the program, I was thinking of pursing an MBA and now I want to go for doctoral studies,” Muhammad said. “The program prepared me for what is coming ahead.” 

Peter Zotor studies biochemistry at UTA and plans to attend medical school.

Mentors also found that the program helped them achieve their own research goals.

“This is an all-around positive,” said Ankur Jain, assistant professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering and mentor to three of the undergraduates. “It is good for the students as it allows them to explore the research, and great for the mentors as it brings in new students, new ideas, and a different energy.”

As well as committing to 25 hours of research a week under the supervision of their mentor, all students were expected to maintain a daily research log and submit a two-page research essay, a one-slide PowerPoint, a 250-word abstract and develop a research poster, to help develop key communications skills.

The first cohort of Undergraduate Research Assistant, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program scholars and the University of Texas System-sponsored Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, scholars also made one-minute presentations of their research conclusions to UTA’s Vice President for Research and their mentors.

Jesse Hernandez, an LSAMP scholar and mechanical engineering student

“This program allowed me to take what I learned in the classroom and apply it to real programs, which made the research so much more alive to me,” said Jesse Hernandez, an LSAMP scholar and mechanical engineering student who was mentored by Jain. “I learned a lot of technical skills and how to apply the theory.” LSAMP students will be attending workshops about graduate school and presenting their projects again this September at a conference at The University of Texas at El Paso.

UTA also plans to expand the sponsorship of programs during the fall and is gearing up for an Undergraduate Research Showcase Week in October, which will promote more undergraduate research on campus.

“We are so excited about the diversity of research on campus,” said Mahera “Mimi” Philobos, UTA assistant vice president for research. “We want explore how finance can do research, how history can do research, as well as the more traditional areas of science and engineering.”

The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program is also gearing up for the fall. Positions are currently posted on the SNAP on-campus student job website that allow students to use their federal work-study hours to work as undergraduate research assistants, developing valuable skills that will enhance their education and workforce readiness.

“These programs offer a real alternative to typical student jobs in the service sector while preparing students for their career,” said Alisa Johnson, director of educational research. “They also provide opportunities for students to develop strong relationships with faculty and graduate students who can also give advice and recommendations going forward.” 

See http://www.uta.edu/research/vpr/research-opportunities/undergraduate/Programs/index.php for more information on the programs.