- Why might I choose to agree to be a faculty advisor for an undergraduate research project?
- How can I find an undergraduate who is interested in pursuing work in my discipline?
- How are my mentoring activities acknowledged by the campus administration?
- I’ve heard about the new Distinguished Professorships in Research and Undergraduate Education. What is the purpose of these professorships, what criteria will be used to select the recipients, and how might I indicate my interest in being nominated?
- An undergrad wants to volunteer in my lab. Is this allowed by the University, and if so, are there special safety and or liability issues that I should address before the student begins?
- An undergrad wants to conduct research involving human subjects. Is this allowed by the University, and if so, what do I need to do and what does the undergrad need to do before the work can begin?
- I keep hearing about “inquiry-based learning”. What is this, why are people so excited about it, and how hard would it be to try it out in one of my classes?
- Where can I read more about inquiry-based learning, graduate mentoring, or including a research experience in one of my courses?
The majority of UNC-Chapel Hill faculty serve as mentors for undergraduate research projects or theses each year. They generally view their mentoring of undergraduates as a deeply satisfying form of teaching, although one that can require a major commitment of time and resources. Some are energized by the enthusiasm and fresh perspective that undergrads can bring. Others feel the responsibility to “give back”, and honor the faculty who mentored them by helping the next generation. With the launch of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) in 2006, the University has declared its intention to make undergraduate research a distinctive feature of a Carolina education. An important part of the plan is the acknowledgement of faculty efforts in mentoring at both the Departmental and University levels, in addition to more resources to enable expansion of the potential mentor pool. We at the OUR hope that your “curiosity will lead you” to deepen your involvement with this essential aspect of the University’s research mission, and we welcome your ideas and feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Undergraduates learn about your research, scholarship and creative interests through the courses you teach, seminars such as IDST 194: Modes of Inquiry designed for faculty from many different disciplines to describe their work, from graduate students who know you, and from their peers. The OUR also maintains a Database of Research Opportunities where faculty can “advertise” their interest in working with an undergraduate for course credit (the 295 and 395 numbers are reserved for these courses in all departments), for pay, or as a volunteer. In addition, many faculty take out ads in the DTH, but posting in the OUR database has many advantages in addition to costing nothing!
Each year as part of the Annual Report process, faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences report the number of undergraduate projects they supervised, the number of undergraduate theses they directed, and the publications, presentations and performances that resulted from such activities. These data are used by the Office for Undergraduate Research, the Dean’s Office, and the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development.
I’ve heard about the new Distinguished Professorships in Research and Undergraduate Education. What is the purpose of these professorships, what criteria will be used to select the recipients, and how might I indicate my interest in being nominated?
Every other year, four new Distinguished Term Professorships in Research and Undergraduate Education (one in each of the four divisions in the College of Arts and Sciences) will be filled. The recipients will receive a stipend and annual project fund. These Professorships will recognize tenured faculty who are making outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. They will also help to foster a culture of undergraduate research on our campus, and support and expand undergraduate research opportunities in all disciplines. The project fund can be used to modify existing courses to add a research component, create one or more new courses to teach research methodologies, travel with undergraduate students to professional meetings, or collaborate with others to increase the number of mentors for undergraduate research projects, as well as defraying other expenses associated with expanding undergraduate research opportunities. The recipients will teach a normal load, but if they create and teach new courses, the home department will be compensated to enable the regular course offerings to continue. The recipients will discuss their projects at an annual banquet sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research, and, on occasion, with members of the University administration and Board of Trustees.
The selection criteria include an outstanding record of research, scholarship or creative performance, and teaching, an outstanding record of and interest in mentoring undergraduate research scholarship or creative performance, and evidence of commitment to expanding undergraduate participation in original inquiry both inside and outside the classroom.
Instructions for submitting nominations are provided by the College of Arts & Sciences. Please direct any questions about nominations to Alexis Cline in the Dean’s Office by email or at 919/962-3082.
The University encourages the involvement of undergraduates in laboratory research, and recognizes that there may be special safety considerations when minors (including both undergraduates and high school students) are involved. Please review this website, ask your undergrad volunteer to fill out the on-line Laboratory Worker Registration Form (.pdf), and insure that your undergrad receives all the appropriate training. If you or your department have specific liability concerns, the OUR can assist your undergrad in obtaining a Student Internship Insurance Policy which is equally appropriate for students receiving course credit, students who are being paid, and students who are volunteering. Please contact us (email@example.com) if you have further questions about this.
An understanding of the complex issues that can arise when research involves human subjects, and how to proceed in an ethical manner are valuable lessons that undergraduates need to learn under your guidance, the University appreciates the importance of such training, and encourages undergraduates to conduct such research after they are qualified to do so. To facilitate the process for you and for the undergrad, the OUR has prepared a checklist of faculty and student responsibilities, together with links to the appropriate sites for certification and application for IRB approval.
Inquiry-based teaching methods focus on helping students to make a transition from “novice-like” approaches to learning (memorizing conclusions reached by others, practicing solutions to “the questions that might be on the exam”) to “expert-like” approaches (a procedural understanding of how current conclusions were reached, the limitations of those conclusions, and the opportunities for further exploration and deeper understanding). Inquiry-based approaches are not new, but they are currently receiving much attention for two reasons. First, inquiry-based approaches are well-aligned with the natural abilities of faculty at a research university (and therefore they are enjoyable to implement). Second, cognitive psychologists have studied ways that people learn, including undergraduates in conventional lecture courses. They have reached the somewhat alarming conclusion that conventional courses in some disciplines actually make students more novice-like in their approach to understanding than they were before the courses began. Faculty in all disciplines at Carolina have been experimenting with inquiry-based approaches for many years, particularly during the past five years with the assistance of the GRC program. To date (Fall 2011), over 500 courses involving over 17,000 students have been taught in ways that include the results of student inquiry as course material. Faculty and students have found these courses to be highly satisfactory. If you decide to explore further, we in the OUR would be happy to discuss approaches you are considering and put you in contact with a colleague in your discipline who could offer additional advice.
The OUR Director, Associate Director and the graduate assistants have published articles about introducing student inquiry in large introductory classes, the role of mentoring in graduate education, and collaborating with graduate students to introduce research experiences in courses. Copies of these and other relevant articles can be obtained by visiting the Resources and Publications section of this website.