Students can participate in undergrad research

By Naomi Hayes

Research is not limited to just experts in white lab coats.

The Office of Undergraduate Research offers many opportunities to students seeking real-life lab experience.

Undergraduate research is available to all undergraduate students and can accommodate almost any major, said Diane Snow, the director of Undergraduate Research.

Research can be done in the fields of science, liberal arts and even music. The office is “dedicated to providing coordination, leadership and support” for research, according to the office’s website.

“Any time you have a burning question and you go back to original sources to answer it, that is research,” Snow said.

She said she believes that as long as students are interested, research should not be limited.

Students are matched to a faculty mentor based on similar interests. The student will then work together with the professor on his or her existing project.

The website will help mentors and students become familiar with the different opportunities provided by the office, according to the office’s website. The partnership can be beneficial for both parties. Undergraduate research allows faculty members to interact with students.

“It’s been rewarding,” said Adrian Centers, a lab mentor researching spinal cord and brain injury. “You don’t know how much you know until you’re teaching it to someone else.”

He said he enjoys knowing that students come in wanting to really learn about the topic.

Undergraduate research serves as a stepping stone for future academic prospects. It is popular among students pursuing medicine because it stands out on a medical school application.

Azita Bahrami, a biology junior, has been doing undergraduate research at UK since she was in high school. She said research would benefit her because “it’s a good step to getting me to where I want to be.”

Research has provided Bahrami with networking opportunities that could help her attain her goal of entering medical school.

“It’s a good way of getting yourself out there,” she said.

Fellow undergraduate researcher, Brandon Kulengowski, a chemical engineering and biology junior, talked about the educational benefits of undergraduate research.

He said research was a good way to apply learned concepts in a real-world setting. Topics studied in class are easily forgotten, he said, but actually performing them in a lab solidifies the material. New ideas and resources can also be used.

“It’s a chance to explore the field,” Kulengowski said. “It opens up other doors, and you get exposed to higher end tools.”

Kulengowski is currently researching spinal cord and brain injury with Centers and Bahrami. He is studying the reaction of neurons when they come into contact with the chemicals present in glial scars, which occur as a result of damage to the central nervous system.

Snow said the idea of “research” seems daunting at first, but the Office of Undergraduate Research tries to make it a great experience for all students, Snow said.