by Sandi Ohman
Historically, research experiences have been designed for graduate and Ph.D. students, although recently, undergraduate students have been participating in research activities and benefiting in ways they were not expecting. Studies show that undergraduate students who participate in research are gaining numerous tangible and intangible benefits from these experiences.
Chelsea Iwig is a graduate student in the Human Factors & Systems master’s program at ERAU. Chelsea has been involved with conducting research both as an intern and as a student. When asked how gaining research experience has helped her, Chelsea said, “Being involved in research has helped me to become a better writer, investigator, presenter and leader. The most recent project I have been involved in has required me to write several grant and conference proposals, learn how to obtain Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval and conduct studies, lead a team of undergraduate researchers, present my research at a regional and international conference, and write a paper to be published in the Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine journal. These are all things that I was never really able to become proficient at by simply relying on what I would learn inside the classroom because these are things that are best learned through actual experience. Also, being involved in research has also made me a stronger applicant for internships not only because of the papers I have written and the conference presentations I have made, but also because it has enabled me to network with professionals within the field of Human Factors.”
As Chelsea mentions, and studies like the one conducted by Osborn and Karustis (2009) from Missouri Western State University states, some of the tangible benefits include strengthening:
- Learning correct research paper writing methods
- Presentation skills
Critical thinking skills:
- Ability to understand information from other research studies and evaluate the data directly
- Problem-solving skills
- Learn to set up and conduct research studies
- Computer skills to analyze research data
Collaboration & Teamwork
The intangible benefits are unexpected, including:
Greater satisfaction with education experience
Increase in GPA and course performance, due to deeper subject understanding
Increase in rate of degree completion
Higher percentage of post-baccalaureate education
Clear/more defined career paths
Increase in self-confidence
Research is not just for the future scientists, it is conducted across all industries and professions. Research takes what students learn in class and applies those concepts. Students have to conduct some type of research for many class projects. Students from all degree areas can participate in research experiences. Gaining this experience as an undergraduate student allows reaping the benefits sooner. Opportunities can be available as early as a first year student, but is more common for juniors and seniors.
There are various ways students can become involved with research. University faculty are often conducting research and writing papers and can use students to assist them. Some internship opportunities are research oriented. Students can learn and earn credit at the same time. Campus clubs or groups could provide research opportunities as well.
A program at ERAU where research is built into the requirements is the McNair Scholars program. This is a Department of Education program, provided at ERAU and other universities, to underrepresented undergraduate students. This program was established to “encourage and prepare students who are underrepresented in graduate education to pursue post-baccalaureate studies, better prepare for advanced degrees, and expand their educational horizons.” Visit the McNair Scholars office for more information.
Within the last year ERAU has opened the Office of Undergraduate Research. The office’s primary mission is to assist undergraduate students with research activities. Funding is available to assist students with research projects that qualify. At this time the office is located on the third floor of the Hunt Library. Visit the office for a tour and for more information.
Research can provide students with a better understanding of their future career path, whether or not it involves research. The skills learned through research will be used in a variety of ways during their careers, and can only make a student more marketable to employers. It is an experience worth pursuit.
View the Career Services website for additional information on obtaining research opportunities.
Sandi Ohman is the Senior Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She has been with the university for over 9 years and has advised students in most all degree areas while in Career Services. Sandi brings additional experience having worked in the finance industry for over 6 years in her previous career. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida.