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GSU Initiates New Undergraduate Research Program

By Jonathan Bulthuis
On November 18, 2013

Governors State University has initiated a new program to fund and facilitate undergraduate research in all disciplines.  The Undergraduate Research Program (U.R.P.) is intended to catalyze research at GSU by funding a wide variety of studies conducted by undergraduate students under the direction of faculty members, as well as by launching workshops applicable to students conducting research at an undergraduate level.

     Dr. Shelly Kumar, Professor of Chemistry and the Director of the U.R.P., spoke passionately about the future possibilities of research studies at GSU.  "At present people are doing research; however, we want to promote it, particularly for undergraduate students and for the incoming freshmen class next year," said Kumar, who also initiated the new Undergraduate Research Club, which is comprised of GSU students representing a variety of disciplines.

     Research at the undergraduate level is delegated to interested and qualified students by faculty members.  When students join faculty on research projects, there is an abundance of work for students to perform, such as finding literature that supports their research, putting together research reports, creating poster and oral presentations that represent their findings, and many other functions. 

     "One way the Undergraduate Research Program promotes research is to offer a grant by which faculty as well as students can apply," said Kumar. "Full time faculty can apply for a grant even if they don't have students to do research at present. If they are awarded funds for their proposal, they can use it for research by undergraduates."

     One of the functions of the U.R.P. will be to facilitate a number of workshops that will educate students in various aspects of conducting and presenting research.  Workshop topics  GSU students can anticipate include how to conduct involved library and literature research; how to maintain research log books; how to write a research report; how to write grants to apply for research funding; and how to present oral and visual presentations of their findings, including introducing a research concept, its background and relevance to a particular field of study, the actual research methods involved, the results of the research, and the overall significance of the results.

     Research studies conducted at GSU are presented at the GSU Student Research Conference and the Illinois Student Research Conference.  GSU will hold an introductory conference on November 26 in E Lounge at 11am for faculty and student researchers, faculty and student award recipients, and interested applicants.  All full-time faculty and students are encouraged to join by contacting Dr. Shelly Kumar before November 22.  In April, GSU hosts a larger conference for presentation of research and findings.  At present, funds are made available to students for presentation of research and research findings through the Student Life department; the U.R.P., however, will present additional funding for faculty and student research, including funds for travelling to out of state conferences, like the Council for Undergraduate Research in Washington D.C. each June, or for data-gathering trips or other costs relevant to each research grant application.

     Dr. Deborah Bordelon, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, expressed the university's endorsement and support of the new direction of research funding at GSU

     "I'm really excited about the research program starting up," said Bordelon. "In the past, we've had some opportunities for faculty to apply for research grants, but we've never really targeted undergraduate research.  This year, we've allocated $15,000 to the U.R.P., so we're hoping to be able to fund 15 projects, at about $1,000 each.  If by chance we had some projects that required less money, and we had more than 15 projects, then we would take a look at those projects and see how we could fund them as well."

     Proposals for research grants are submitted by faculty members and then reviewed by the U.R.P. Committee. 

     "The committee is comprised of about seven to eight faculty members, the majority of which have been involved in the honors program in the past or in research projects with students," said Bordelon.  "Dr. Kumar is leading this effort, and he and the committee will share applications and conduct a review process, after which the committee will identify those programs or proposals that meet the criteria for funding."

     Bordelon and Kumar both stressed the importance of undergraduate research programs in providing a superior academic experience for undergraduate students.

      "Students and faculty that have done substantial research will be able to present their findings at conferences and workshops in a motivational, peer to peer environment, and faculty members can empower students to write grants themselves," said Kumar. "Studies have shown that retention and graduation rates are much higher in schools with strong research programs."

     Bordelon agrees with Kumar. "The Association of American Colleges and Universities have done quite a bit of research on high impact practices - things that truly enhance the educational experience of students - and undergraduate research is one of those high impact practices," said Bordelon.  "As we're looking at growing programs, we're looking at how we can enhance the learning experience.  It made sense for us to really focus on providing the support for undergraduate research on our campus."

     The nature of the research that can be performed through the Undergraduate Research Program spans the academic gamut, from the Biological Sciences to Criminal Justice.  "People think of research as limited to the sciences," said Kumar.  "The Undergraduate Research Program is for all disciplines, university wide."

     "The program really is open to any kind of research project that the faculty member and the student - or a group of students - are interested in engaging in," said Bordelon. "The methodology may vary depending on the discipline.  It could be in Biology or Chemistry, it could be quantitative in nature, and focused on field or lab research; whereas someone in the Criminal Justice program might have a more qualitative type of project, interviewing individuals and gathering data and performing data analysis."

     Persons interested in applying for the Undergraduate Research Program should contact Dr. Shelly Kumar at 708-534-4528, or by email at 

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