Faculty-mentored research and creative activities have become an integral component of the education an undergraduate expects to receive at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). The uniqueness of this UCI experience comes from one-on-one interaction with world-renowned faculty, applying research methods to real-world applications, and the development of skills and knowledge gained that will lead to successful careers. Within its schools and programs (Claire Trevor School of the Arts, School of Biological Sciences, Paul Merage School of Business, School of Education, Henry Samueli School of Engineering, School of Humanities, Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Science, School of Law, School of Medicine, Nursing Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Physical Sciences, Public Health, School of Social Ecology, School of Social Sciences), UCI has launched and nurtured many department- and school-based programs in support of undergraduate research. Some of these programs receive external funding from corporate sponsors and federal agencies (i.e., National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Education); others are funded locally. In addition, many undergraduates have conducted research under the guidance of faculty members from the School of Medicine. This growing commitment of UCI faculty and administration in support of undergraduate research opportunities has led to the development of a number of centralized undergraduate research programs, including the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) in 1995.
We believe it is important for undergraduates to gain exposure to the research process regardless of their future career choices. Over the past few years, close to 50% of all students graduating from UCI have participated in independent or group research projects. This engagement can take on different levels of intensity: from learning research methods specific to their discipline, to managing their own projects, to concluding with a presentable or publishable finding. The most common types of projects are individual, followed by laboratory projects; some are driven by a senior thesis or term paper. As you move around the UCI campus in a clockwise direction, you see creative projects in the Arts, scholarly work in the Humanities, surveys or psychology experiments in Social Ecology and Social Sciences, design projects in Computer Science and Engineering, and basic science or clinical research in the Physical and Biomedical Sciences. Close to 80% of mentoring is done directly by Faculty Members of the Academic Senate, with the remainder done through the involvement of graduate students or post-doctoral fellows.
The benefits of undergraduate research go far beyond the knowledge gained from conducting a research or creative project. Students conducting research projects develop skills—critical analysis, problem solving, and communication skills are only a few—that they will use throughout their lives. In a 2002 survey, faculty members were asked to list areas in which students generally improve as a direct result of their participation in the undergraduate research experience. More than 85% of the responses listed the following:
- Drawing conclusions and critically analyzing information
- Defining and solving problems
- Developing communication skills
- Working independently
- Understanding and applying research methods, ethics and conduct rules
Faculty, as a result, develop a better understanding of the learning styles of students and the training required for students to succeed in their undergraduate research experience.
Launched in 1995, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) in the Division of Undergraduate Education encourages and facilitates faculty-mentored research and creative activities by undergraduates from all schools and academic disciplines at UCI. UROP is committed to providing a professional environment conducive to research advancement and career skills development. UROP also collaborates with a number of schools and research units to develop specialized research opportunities. Through UROP’s various programs, the UROP Team assists students through all phases of the research process, including proposal writing, developing research plans through project management skills, funding research projects, scholarly journal writing through The UCI Undergraduate Research Journal, and presenting results of the research or creative project through the UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium.
UROP’s demonstrated commitment has grown to support close to 2,000 undergraduates (unduplicated) each year through a variety of programs, including:
- UROP advises close to 1,200 students annually on appropriate research opportunities on and off campus. The UROP Team motivates and encourages students to do their “homework” by reading more about their topic of interest, reviewing faculty research profiles (available at www.faculty.uci.edu or under school and departmental Web sites), and identifying their top three to five potential faculty mentors. Students are then exposed to appropriate protocols on how to contact the mentor, how to engage the mentor in a meeting about project details (a project topic could be proposed by the student), appropriate questions to ask regarding expectations and what it means to make a commitment, considering the student is expected to spend at least 12–15 hours per week working on her/his project. Students receive academic credit for conducting faculty-mentored research or creative projects through the 199-like courses with 1–5 possible graded units per quarter. This is followed by training on how to “Manage the Research Process” and “Responsible Research Conduct.” A few students receive payment as compensation for their efforts, but this option is more common in the summer. A student cannot receive payment and academic credit for the same effort. Students start their projects at different stages in their undergraduate program, but are expected to work on the same project for at least three academic quarters. In addition, UROP maintains a detailed list of close to 400 off-campus research programs at other universities, national research institutes, and corporations. Additional information is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/opportunities.html.
- UROP Grants & Fellowships: This program provides funding for continuing UCI undergraduates from all disciplines who are conducting research projects or creative activities under the guidance of UCI faculty members. Students may apply for grants during separate Calls for Proposals in the Fall and Spring Quarters of each school year. Grants of up to $1,000 may be awarded for individual projects, although higher amounts can be awarded for group projects; these funds are to be used to cover research-related expenses. Student proposals need to outline the background on their projects, significance and proposed methods and findings, and an itemized budget. The UROP Faculty Advisory Board makes funding recommendations based on the proposal, faculty mentor’s letter of recommendation, student’s transcript, and available funds. Proposals that do not require funding or are already receiving adequate funding from other sources may be submitted for an Honorary Fellowship. Additional funding details by school since the first Call for Proposals, in Spring 1996, are available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/grants/grants_fellowships.html.
- Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP): Launched in 2011 as a collaboration between UROP and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), the MDP engages UCI undergraduate students from all disciplines in five-member design teams, co-mentored by at least two faculty mentors from different schools. Participants have the opportunity to choose from a variety of innovative and creative design projects related to the areas of energy, environment, healthcare, and culture. Each project receives funding for project expenses and dedicated space in the Calit2 Building. Additional information is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/mdp.html.
- Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP): Launched in 2001, SURP provides funding for continuing UCI undergraduates from all disciplines who are conducting summer research projects or creative activities under the guidance of UCI faculty members. Students work on their research topics full time for a ten-week period, or the equivalent of 400 hours. Student applicants need to have been involved in at least one quarter of faculty-mentored undergraduate research or creative activity before the beginning of the summer. SURP Fellows receive up to a $3,000 stipend for their time and efforts over the summer. Proposals that do not require funding may be submitted for an Honorary Fellowship. Detailed funding information by school is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/SURP/Recipients/awardsummary.html.
- Edwards Lifesciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program (E-SURP): Launched in 2011 as a collaboration between UROP and the Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology, the E-SURP Program provides funding for continuing UCI undergraduates from all disciplines who are conducting summer research projects or creative activities under the guidance of UCI faculty members associated with Edwards Lifesciences Center. Students work on their research topics full time for a ten-week period, or the equivalent of 400 hours. Student applicants need to have been involved in at least one quarter of faculty-mentored undergraduate research or creative activity before the beginning of the summer. E-SURP Fellows receive up to a $2,000 stipend for their time and efforts over the summer. Proposals that do not require funding may be submitted for an Honorary Fellowship. Additional information is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/e-surp.html.
- Inter-Disciplinary Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (ID-SURE): Funded initially by the National Institutes of Health, ID-SURE was launched in Summer 2005 as a collaboration between UROP and the Health Promotion Center in the School of Social Ecology. The Program provides funding for continuing UCI undergraduates from all disciplines who are conducting interdisciplinary summer research projects or creative activities related to health promotion and disease prevention under the guidance of UCI faculty members. Students become fully immersed in their research topic full time for an eight-week period, or the equivalent of 320 hours. Applicants need to have been involved in at least one quarter of faculty-mentored undergraduate research or creative activity before the beginning of the summer. ID-SURE Fellows participate in a preparatory course during Spring Quarter, and are awarded up to a $2,000 stipend in support of their time and efforts over the summer. Proposals that do not require funding may be submitted for an Honorary Fellowship. This was one of five programs nationwide funded by the National Institute on Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders. Additional information is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/id-sure.html.
- Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship on the Internet of Things (SURF-IoT): The SURF-IoT Program has been funded by UROP and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and provides the opportunity for non-graduating UCI juniors and seniors to become involved in IoT-related research under the guidance of UCI faculty. Applicants need to have been involved in at least one quarter of faculty-mentored undergraduate research or creative activity before the beginning of the summer. Participants work on their projects full-time for ten weeks during the summer, earning a $2,000 stipend in support of their time and efforts. The program was initially launched in 2005 as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Information Technology (SURF-IT); the new name reflects its growing focus on the vast potential of the Internet to connect people to each other and their community in ways never dreamed of before. Additional information is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/surf-it.html.
- Integrated Micro/Nano Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (IM-SURE): Funded by the National Science Foundation as a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site, IM-SURE was launched in Summer 2005 as a collaboration between UROP and the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering. The Program provides a unique ten-week summer research opportunity for non-graduating Science and Engineering juniors and seniors to become fully immersed in cutting edge micro/nano research and applications under the guidance of UCI faculty members. Participants have the opportunity to choose from a variety of challenging research projects in biomedical, physical and engineering micro/nano-technology. In addition to a $3,000 stipend, students receive free on-campus housing and travel allowance. This program is open to non-UCI undergraduates. Additional information is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/otherprojects.html.
- Chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (Chem-SURF): Funded by the National Science Foundation as a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site, Chem-SURF was launched in Summer 2008 as a collaboration between UROP and the Chemistry Department. The Program provides a unique ten-week summer research opportunity for non-graduating science juniors and seniors to become fully immersed in a variety of challenging and original research projects that explore a diverse and exciting range of topics in chemical biology, chemical physics, and analytical, atmospheric, bioinorganic, bioorganic, computational, inorganic, materials, organic, physical, polymer, surface, and theoretical chemistry. Students receive a $3,500 stipend, on-campus housing, and travel allowance. This program is open to non-UCI undergraduates. Additional information is available at: http://www.chem.uci.edu/reu/.
- International Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (I-SURF): Launched in 2013, the I-SURF Program provides a unique 10-week summer research opportunity for undergraduate students to become fully immersed in faculty-mentored cutting edge research at UC Irvine. The program is open to students who are not matriculated at UC Irvine and who are pursuing an undergraduate degree outside the United States. As a result of the I-SURF experience, students will develop a competitive edge in applying for Master’s and Ph.D. programs at UC Irvine or other top graduate programs. The program is funded in large part by fees charged directly to students or their sponsors. Additional information is available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/i-surf.html.
- Symposium: The annual UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium provides an opportunity for undergraduates from all disciplines to present their research results in a professional setting. Fellows supported by UROP-sponsored programs are required to present; however, the Symposium is open to all students. The activities include oral and poster presentations, student performances, a keynote speaker, and an awards ceremony. At the Symposium, recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research are recognized. The recipients include one faculty mentor and one student from each school, who are nominated by their Deans and Associate Deans. Everyone is welcome to attend and participate in this celebrated UCI event, to be held each year in May. The Call for Abstracts is announced during the Spring Quarter. Symposium Programs since 1997 are available on the Web at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/symposium.html.
- Journal: Launched in 1998, The UCI Undergraduate Research Journal is a compilation of outstanding research papers completed by UCI undergraduate students from all schools and disciplines. The UROP Student Editorial Board handles the regulation, initial review of papers, and production of the Journal. Final research papers are reviewed and selected by the UROP Faculty Advisory Board. Application packets, with detailed guidelines, are available in the Spring Quarter in the UROP Office and on the UROP Web site. The Call for Papers is held each year in July. Additional details about the Journal and copies of previous volumes are available at: http://www.urop.uci.edu/journal.html.
To learn more about these programs, we invite you to browse the UROP Web site: www.urop.uci.edu.
It is important to know that research conducted by individuals associated with UCI both on and off campus must adhere to responsible conduct of research guidelines and safety rules, and demonstrate the highest ethical standards. Undergraduate students are held to the same standards and expectations we have of faculty and other researchers.
UCI faculty mentors play a critical role and they deserve our utmost gratitude. To facilitate their promotion cases, UROP can provide reports of undergraduate research activities mentored by specific faculty mentors or department-wide since 1995. These online reports include detailed information about students and projects, including copies of proposals, abstracts, papers, etc. In addition to the Chancellor’s Award, UROP also recognizes one mentor a month, as “Faculty Mentor of the Month,” in recognition of excellence in mentoring undergraduate research or creative activities. Various schools and departments at UCI have also recognized faculty who have demonstrated excellence in mentoring undergraduate researchers.
For more information, please contact:
Said M. Shokair, Director
Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)
University of California, Irvine
Student Services II, Suite 2100
Irvine, CA 92697
Phone: (949) 824-7701