Undergraduate research fair gives students opportunities

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Lori Houghton (right) speaks with students Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 during the research fair held in the Grand River Room.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Lori Houghton (right) speaks with students Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 during the research fair held in the Grand River Room.

Shae Slaughter

To help Grand Valley State University students further their education in the field of research, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS) is hosting an undergraduate research fair Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room.

This is the eighth year the undergraduate research fair has been held. Since its conception, it has continually grown in both success and popularity from year to year. Last year, the fair drew in around 400 students in the two hours it was open. Initially thrown as an event by the College of Liberal of Arts and Sciences, it moved into the hands of the OURS after the office was constructed six years ago.

“(The office) is part of the fabric of the formation of the original colleges,” said Susan Mendoza, director of OURS.

The OURS is located in Room 230 of the Mary Idema Pew Library and focuses on some events such as this fair, but also a variety of other things. Research is the main focus, with the goal being collaborative efforts and connecting students with faculty members. The office also helps over 200 students a year with access to grants or scholarships that allow them to research both locally and abroad. The undergraduate research fair helps to show off all of these possible opportunities to potential candidates.

The fair is home to a wide variety of categories with areas such as theater, scholarship and writing being represented. Thirty different departments from GVSU will be present, along with a few outside sources, covering all interests.

Prior to the actual fair, there will also be a student and faculty panel from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. also in Kirkhof Center. Mendoza thinks these panels are some of the best features offered.

“(In the student panel) they talk about what research is and why you do it, how you get involved. Sometimes it confirms or denies what you might want to do,” Mendoza said.

The two panels are separate and focused on different goals based on the audiences. These same students who are speaking out about their previous experiences with research during the student panel will also be present at the fair as ambassadors. These ambassadors will be available to answer more questions and can also be considered as guides at the event.

“(Students should) think about becoming involved in research early in their academic career even if they don’t believe it pertains to them necessarily,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza participated in research both as an undergrad and now, in a variety of subjects, and believes that it has definitely had an impact on her.

Psychology professor Kristy Dean also advocates research as a huge advantage for students, partaking in it herself as well.

“Research involvement hones a variety of skills related to scholarly and creative inquiry, skills that are useful in any career and in your personal life too,” Dean said.

As a current participant in research, Dean takes two to three undergraduate students to help in her lab each semester. From this vantage point, she can see just how the experience benefits those who work under her leadership.

“Collaborating on research with a professor also involves mentorship, and I think this type of relationship can help students become more confident and independent and thoughtful in their judgment,” she said.

Both Mendoza and Dean agree that the research being produced by the university would be of interest to students if they took the time to check it out at the fair. By attending, students could also take the first couple steps to creating their own research which should be the ultimate goal.

“Part of being an educated individual is moving from consuming knowledge to creating it and presenting it,” Mendoza said. “You want to do something that transcends what you do in the classroom.”