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Undergrads share experiences with research


While USF is one of the top research universities in the state, many students shy away from participating in undergraduate research.

Four undergraduate students actively involved in research, hoped to dispel many of the worries students have surrounding undergraduate research at a student panel discussion Wednesday night in the Library.

The panel, hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Research , was open to students and parents who were looking to gather more information about the process of acquiring an undergraduate research opportunity and the expectations that come with it. More than 290 attended the event.

Olivia Means, a panelist and a senior majoring in biology, said though USF is a top research university, many students aren’t getting involved.

“A lot of students either do not know about it (undergraduate research), or they think that they are not qualified,” Means said.

However, that is normal for most undergraduate students, Adela Ramos, a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering, who was part of the panel, said.

“You just have to go onto the website and look for the opportunities that are listed there. The OUR helps guide you as well,” Ramos said.

OUR prepares students for the interviews and provides students with mentors to help them as they enter into undergraduate research for the first time.

Natacha Palay, a panelist and first-year student majoring in art, explained the help she received when first starting research at USF.

“It was really easy for me, because I felt I was well guided,” Palay said. “If the students have any questions going into the research, you can always message your mentor, and they are really good at replying back. You never have the feeling of being alone.”

The hours are sometimes demanding, and a student can be expected to commit to working 10 to 15 hours a week. However, mentors and professors understand that students have a busy schedule and are willing to work around the due dates.

Being a part of undergraduate research has helped students become more independent in their fields.

“I like the aspect of knowing that I can individually start any project that I want to on my own. I can apply what I have learned through undergraduate research to any future project,” Palay said.

In addition to learning the tools for proper research, it helps individuals gain in other areas too, such as developing confidence and personality, Means said.

“I got a lot of confidence from going out of my comfort zone,” Means said. “Working with patients in the mental health field, I also was able to develop patience.”

Dwain Pruitt, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said the procedure for looking up research opportunities through OUR’s Canvas page is simple.

“If you contact the OUR, we can add you to our group on Canvas. When you accept our request, you will be able to view the research listings on the first page,” he said.

Students, often times think that freshman or sophomore years are too early to get started, but Ramos said students should start looking as soon as possible.

“You have to think ahead, and realize that if you want something for next semester, you need to find it now,” she said.

Another obstacle for students, is not knowing where they want to focus their research.

“Students do not have to stay within their academic discipline,” Means said. “For example, if you’re interested in sports, particularly football, you can relate that to head injuries; just like that, you have found an interesting research area.”

The panel suggested that it was a good idea to look into different disciplines for research opportunities, to make yourself more diversified.

“I am doing research about the ‘Black Panther,’ the comic book,” Nanchy Velez, a sophomore majoring in information technology, said. “These are the opportunities that are present here. It is nice to know that you are not only at a top-notch research university, but you are part of it as well.”