Undergraduate Research

Why Does Undergraduate Research Experience Matter?

The undergraduate research experience is widely touted as an effective educational tool with multiple benefits including an increased interest in a career in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce and a personal development from which career choices grow. Several studies have supported the hypothesis that undergraduate research has the potential to increase students’ learning, retention, graduation rates and entrance into graduate programs.

Undergraduate research is a faculty-student collaborative effort that benefits both the student and the faculty mentor. The student will get a chance to apply research to real-life experiences, better prepare for graduate school, identify career interests and opportunities, participate in ground-breaking discoveries and develop much needed skills that facilitate lifelong learning. The faculty will get a chance to work with quality students, advance his/her research program, provide inputs to peers and participate in national conversations regarding undergraduate research, improve teaching strategies, and sometimes reinvigorate an academic career or pursue a research project of interest. These benefits, whether students- or faculty-centered, testify to the value of undergraduate research.

In my experience working with undergraduates, I have observed how students often progress from being totally dependent on their faculty advisor to being independent research students who can fully understand, explain and contribute to their research projects. All of my undergraduate research students have attested to the value of undergraduate research and the pivotal role it played in their undergraduate education. It is worth mentioning that initiating or sustaining an undergraduate research program at a predominantly undergraduate institution can be particularly challenging given common issues that often face faculty and students at these institutions (i.e. heavy teaching load, student course and work schedules, funding opportunities, students’ unawareness of research opportunities and benefits). Nonetheless, undergraduate research is yet another opportunity for me to train undergraduate students to become excellent scientists, researchers and medical doctors. Since my joining the SUNY Potsdam Chemistry department in 2007, I have had the privilege of helping shape the mind of many undergraduates (over 40 students as of Fall 2021), many of whom are now pursuing medical (MD) or PhD degrees. A few others have started working and giving back to society. Additionally, the majority of these students have been (or will soon be) co-authors on scientific papers, have travelled and participated in national conferences, and have won numerous research awards.

Interested students should contact Dr. Bou-Abdallah at bouabdf@potsdam.edu

Dr. Bou-Abdallah in the Research Lab with Gideon and Sasha