Sunday, September 24

Submission: Research enriches UCLA undergrad experience


As one of the world’s finest public research universities, UCLA provides a rich and fulfilling context for undergraduates to conduct research.

Inquiry, creativity, investigation and discovery are at the heart of UCLA’s threefold mission of service, teaching and research. We start pitching research opportunities at UCLA from the moment students are admitted, through Bruin Day and summer orientation activities, right until the day they graduate. With nearly 5,000 top-notch faculty members, 12 libraries, a world-class medical center, the Fowler and Hammer museums and the undergraduate research centers all at their disposal, undergraduates who participate in research have a leg up academically and throughout their professional careers.

Research enriches the undergraduate experience.Indeed, for some, it defines it.As one graduating senior told us recently in the senior survey, her “most meaningful learning experience” at UCLA involved “working in a lab as an undergraduate researcher. It’s a great way to apply the knowledge obtained from my two majors in order to ‘make’ new knowledge.”

Indeed, she was not alone. Another graduating senior commented that he “was able to get a glimpse both into the graduate school life as well as professional options that would be available to me in my major, and I found that to be the greatest source of learning that I encountered.”

Last week, UCLA celebrated Undergraduate Research Week, which culminated in a science poster session in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom and a weeklong display of presentations at Powell Library.The caliber and disciplinary range of research and creative output conducted by Bruin undergraduates are simply stunning.

From North Campus, we were treated to Michael Farr’s nuanced research of a vexing constitutional problem, an exploration of how the United States wrestles with its treatment of suspected terrorists who are also American citizens.Lena Kristy explored the rise of obesity and related health issues found in indigenous populations as they relate to food consumption and the displacement of cultural connections to food in our global economy.Juan Fernandez, utilizing critical literary theory, highlighted issues of racism, sexism and homophobia using the detective story genre.These are just a handful of the more than 200 stellar research presentations that grew out of student-faculty partnerships from North Campus.

From South Campus, literally hundreds of posters also proved the value and productivity associated with UCLA’s undergraduate education.Yeon Joo Kim, with others, advanced lung cancer research that may ultimately contribute to life-saving clinical applications.Daniel Lin, also working with a team, presented on the effects of sleep quality on learning in virtual reality settings. Robert Gammariello, together with another research team, investigated the role of climate change in mass extinctions.

And while each of the hundreds of student participants from both North and South Campus in Undergraduate Research Week clearly demonstrates the erudition and creativity befitting UCLA undergraduates, I hasten to point out that they are also finely tuning their professional skills.

Research replicates dynamics all of us need to succeed in life: the clear identification and in-depth investigation of a problem, work in teams or under the mentorship of a more senior leader in the field, and the summarization and presentation of work for public review. These skills essential in the research environment and keys to success in graduate studies also port well to any number of professional careers.

The invitation to engage in undergraduate research is a standing invitation. Take us up on the offer.Drop by your professor’s office during office hours or contact one of the undergraduate research centers on campus.Conducting research will allow you to pull the strands of your education together into a finely woven quilt that will prove yet again that UCLA boasts the best and brightest students while also preparing them for work and research after graduation.

Turner is vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at UCLA.

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