VCU to Host Inaugural Research Week: Profiling Student Research
Students to celebrate research and creativity campus-wide
Sathya Achia Abraham
University Public Affairs
Virginia Commonwealth University is hosting its first student Research Week – a series of events scheduled for April 18-22 that will bring together undergraduate and graduate students from across disciplines to celebrate research, creativity and scholarship.
The VCU event comes at a pivotal time in academia when increasing emphasis is being placed on the merits of research and discovery being conducted by undergraduates at colleges and universities across the country.
In November 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives designated the week of April 11th, 2011, as “Undergraduate Research Week,” underscoring the importance of research experiences at the collegiate level. April also marks the Council on Undergraduate Research’s annual “Posters on the Hill,” in which 60 students from across the country will visit Washington, D.C., to share their research with members of Congress.
“VCU’s Research Week event signals our commitment to a deep student learning experience and recognition of the importance of our growing research enterprise on all levels and across disciplines,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “Through relevant research opportunities at VCU, our young investigators are able to share in experiences that will help shape them as leaders committed to important discoveries.”
VCU student investigators from the College of Humanities & Sciences and the schools of Allied Health Professions, Arts, Business, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Social Work and Interdisciplinary Studies will have the opportunity to showcase research findings and creative projects during the week of April 18.
“Facilitating research experiences for undergraduates at VCU is good for our students and our institution,” said Francis Macrina, Ph.D., VCU’s vice president for research. “VCU has a robust research enterprise that offers an enormous array of opportunities to undergraduates. Our recently implemented Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program is helping undergraduates identify and pursue research experiences. Such experiences will provide students with firsthand exposure to the research environment. These experiences may ultimately help students determine if a career in research will be the right fit for them.”
For students, the week represents a culmination of tireless dedication and hard work. In many instances, students started the projects from scratch – including proposing the project, developing research questions and mapping out what they hoped to accomplish. They ran the experiments, collected data and then analyzed and interpreted the data.
A fleet of faculty mentors kept tabs on the students, encouraging discovery and offering guidance while observing the young investigators and creators taking steps and missteps on the path to knowledge.
An event is born
Among VCU students and organizers, Research Week is already generating excitement.
“It’s a defining moment for the VCU community,” said Kunal Kapoor, the VCU Board of Visitors representative for undergraduate students. The VCU junior is a religious studies/pre-med major.
“If students can see the connection – if they can see that their education has many practical applications – and if they get involved and get some hands-on experience, it will go far.”
Kapoor and second-year medical student Fatima Syed, the VCU Board of Visitors representative for graduate students, gave a presentation before the VCU Board of Visitors last fall based on collective ideas shared among students and faculty. Kapoor and Syed had learned from their peers and faculty that there was a need to engage students in the process and vigor of research across disciplines – not just bench research, but also the arts and humanities. They had also taken note that many peer institutions were celebrating student research through their own student research events that spanned days or even weeks.
Soon after that presentation, a university-wide task force for student research was formed and plans for Research Week were put into motion.
According to Kapoor, by placing strong emphasis on student research and involving students early in their academic careers, VCU will enable students to form an appreciation for research by helping them see their projects develop and mature through their undergraduate and graduate years.
“The hope is that students become passionate about their work and make a decision to play a part in positive change,” Kapoor said. “I hope that there will be a shift in how students view the pursuit of education, it won’t just be book-learning, but it’ll be this idea of how we can use what we learn for the future. So we’re molding students to become initiators of change – and that is bold.”
“We are living in a world where the future is rapidly progressing and dynamic, and what we hope for students coming out of VCU is that they are not just involved, but that they really define the future,” he said.
For more information about VCU Research Week: Profiling Student Research, visit http://www.research.vcu.edu/vpr/ugresources/research-week.htm.
To learn about one of VCU’s undergraduate research initiatives, the Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellowship Program, visit http://www.news.vcu.edu/news/Learning_the_Research_Ropes.