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Saturday, August 29, 2015

UROP increases 1,400 percent since inception


By Asadullah Siddiqui

Since 2005, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) at UM-Flint has provided students with the opportunity to work closely with faculty while receiving compensation for real world research experience. An integral part of modern education, research experience can drastically set a student apart from non-experienced ones and is highly recommended for those looking to enter graduate programs.

UROP was first considered in 2004 by Dr. Vahid Lotfi, senior vice provost, after his daughter made mention of the program provided on the Ann Arbor campus. Andre Louis, a Flint native and UM-Flint alumni for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, then worked together with the Ann Arbor UROP staff to develop a sister program and has been director of the UM-Flint program ever since.

“Since its inception, we have supported close to 400 different UROP students and offered projects from close to 70 different UM-Flint faculty [members],” Louis said.

Senior Mark Webster and Dr. Joe Sucic look onto a microscope for their research project involving cancer cells

The first UROP program started in winter 2005 with six students registered. UROP gives students the options of using their work hours as a monetary stipend, volunteer or, work-study hours. During the fall 2013 semester, there were 74 registered UROP students, citing a 1400 percent increase in student participation and 600 percent increase in faculty participation since 2005.

Dr. Jessica Tischler, associate professor and chair of the department of chemistry has been involved in UROP since 2011. Tischler’s project involves the study of a new, greener method for the synthesis of amines—a class of organic compounds used in many commercial products.

“I think it is a great program for our students to continue their research. Research has become an essential part of undergraduate education in the sciences,” Tischler said. “And this allows the student to get paid to continue their work once their required credits have been completed.”

Senior Rebecca Farr first became involved with UROP in April 2012.
She has worked on two different projects, her current project being with Dr. Kevin Tang, associate professor of biology. In the lab she spends her time “analyzing cusk-eel DNA sequences to place them into groups and observe their relations to other members of their family.”

“Working in the laboratory allows invaluable development of critical thinking skills and in depth knowledge and practice of laboratory techniques, many of which are not taught in classes. Participation in the program is highly beneficial and I would recommend that any students seriously considering a scientific career to get involved with research as early as possible,” Farr said.

Research is not only for those looking to enter STEM careers. There are a number of projects in the various fields including English, philosophy, and even theater and dance. The culmination of these projects leads to the annual UM-Flint Student Research Conference (SRC), where faculty and students demonstrate their work through poster and slideshow presentations. UM-Flint is also one of three universities associated with the Meeting of Minds Undergraduate Research Conference (MOM). Louis serves as co-coordinator for both the SRC and MOM.

“Based on interactions I’ve had with many former and present participants, UROP has helped students to acquire knowledge and skills extending beyond the classroom. Research has helped clarify their academic and career interests, connect with faculty who share similar research interests, motivate them to consider graduate, medical, or law school, and to learn through hands-on experiences. Often times, students are initially intimidated by the idea of doing research. But once they have experienced UROP, they become seasoned researchers…” Louis said.

The deadline to apply for Winter UROP is Friday, April 4, 2014.
For more information about UROP or to apply, students can visit www.umflint.edu/research/UROP.

Asadullah Siddiqui can be reached at asadulls@umflint.edu and on Twitter @MTimesAce

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