The Undergraduate Research and Creative Services Center, URECA, hosted Wake Forest’s 10th annual Undergraduate Research Day on Friday, Oct. 7 before Family Weekend.
The event took place in the ZSR Library, rather than in Benson, due to the growth of the number of both presenters and attendees. The floor of the atrium held over 100 posters exhibiting a wide variety of research across all disciplines.
“Although many other schools provide undergraduate research opportunities today, Wake Forest has a long-standing history of faculty and students working together on collaborative research and creative activity scholarship,” said Shannon Mihalko, co-director of the URECA executive committee.
Since 2011, Undergraduate Research Day has been a platform for students to exhibit over 750 research presentations, many of which are the result of collaboration between faculty members and students.
Within the Class of 2016, 10 percent of students presented at Undergraduate Research Day at least once over the course of their undergraduate education as the result of conducting faculty-mentored projects, and almost 60 percent conducted or assisted with research while earning academic credit towards graduation.
“Wake does an excellent job in trying to provide its undergraduates with plenty of opportunities to engage in research, specifically with the URECA grant,” said sophomore Anuj Jailwala, who presented his research in the field of biophysics at the event. “I believe it is important that we apply all that we learn through our classes to the questions and problems that relate to our current beliefs. Consequently, we may be able to help others or continue to expand our depth of knowledge.”
Wake Forest’s dedication to maintaining small class sizes and a low student–to–faculty ratio has played a part in allowing a relatively large percentage of the undergraduate student body to have a role in research with faculty members, whether it be through summer research, within classes or other mediums.
Over 55 percent of full-time professors and 51 percent of tenure-track faculty at Wake Forest have served as a mentor on a project presented at Undergraduate Research Day,
“We have tried to be intentional about getting faculty-student partnerships into the discussion about what makes Wake Forest a great place to be a scholar,” said Rebecca Alexander, a professor in the chemistry department and a member of the URECA Executive Committee. “We are still learning how to encourage these collaborations, support them financially when needed, and provide venues for celebrating work done by faculty and students.”
Senior Thomas Stirrat noted the value of having an advisor, despite his research being independent. “My research was mainly an independent research project, but I also collaborated with my faculty advisor, who was instrumental in helping and guiding me through the research process.”
URECA hopes to provide more students with the opportunity to research topics in the arts and humanities fields in the future, adding to the wide variety of research disciplines presented at Undergraduate Research Day.
“There is no one area that dominates. Economic theories, math proofs, fish jumping, chemical synthesis, linguistic analysis anything goes,” Alexander said.
Wayne Pratt, co-director of URECA, said, “URECA endeavors to support engaged scholarship across the academic spectrum, and participation in Undergraduate Research Day is open to all disciplines.”