Undergraduate research has been a longtime cornerstone of Wake Forest’s commitment to academic excellence.
“Our goal is to provide undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in mentored or independent scholarship,” said Rebecca Alexander, an associate professor of chemistry who serves as co-director of the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URECA) Center.
The URECA Center provides student grants (summer fellowships include $4,000 plus housing) and an administrative umbrella for mentored, undergraduate research and encourages and supports high-quality programs of great impact.
Alexander leads by example as a faculty mentor. Mubhij Ahmad, a senior in her research group, joined her lab during his first year on campus. His research has explored the genetic sequence of a VSV, a virus in the same family as rabies and Ebola.
With Alexander’s guidance, Ahmad has studied intricate details of mitochondrial RNA structures, learned new lab techniques, and refined complex methods for RNA extraction – opportunities not always possible in a regular class or lab setting.
“Allowing students to work closely with faculty on scholarly research is central to our teacher-scholar model at Wake Forest, and it’s taking place in a variety of settings and across all disciplines,” said Shannon Mihalko, an associate professor of health and exercise science who co-directs the URECA Center with Alexander.
During Family Weekend, 135 students presented the findings of their mentored scholarship at Undergraduate Research Day. Students gave oral and poster presentations on research on important, timely issues, such as:
In November, several Wake Forest students will present at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium. In April, Wake Forest will host the ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference to celebrate undergraduate academic scholarship and research with students from all ACC schools.
Coaching students to present and share their findings at conferences and events provides valuable experience for faculty. It is also particularly helpful for students who plan to attend graduate school or become a researcher full-time. It’s just one of the many rewards students and faculty gain from the experience.
“Acting as a mentor for undergraduate scholarship is an extension of a faculty member’s other commitments, such as classroom teaching or academic advising,” said Mihalko. “But the heart of the URECA Center is one of faculty-student engagement. Supporting mentored scholarship is not something we have to do, it’s something we love to do.”
Categories: 2012 Highlights: Humanities, 2012 Highlights: Mentoring, 2012 Highlights: Science and Research, Faculty, For Alumni, For Parents, Mentoring, Research, Student, Top Stories, Wake Forest College