If they want, students at the University of Delaware can study the spinal compression of goats over time. Or, they can choose, instead, to research how pregnancy impacts immune cells in the mother’s brain.
There are nearly infinite opportunities for student research on campus, but sometimes it can be difficult for undergraduates to seek out the position that best suits them. Dawn Montgomery, assistant director of Delaware IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), has seen students struggle before.
“It’s hard for kids, especially when they’re freshmen,” she said. “They don’t know where to go.”
The newly formed University of Delaware Undergraduate Research Club is junior and club president Casey Polasko’s attempt at making the abundance of on-campus research more attainable. She hopes to connect undergraduates to research projects and other interested students.
According to Montgomery, who serves as the club’s faculty advisor, it also aims to dispel the belief that research is only about science.
“We want to clarify misconceptions about research because a lot of students think that research is just the sciences or that you have to sit in the lab and do nothing else,” Montgomery said. “But research is so much more than that.”
According to StUDent Central, the university’s online directory for campus clubs and functions, the Undergraduate Research Club is open to all majors and disciplines.
"A lot of students think that research is just the sciences or that you have to sit in the lab and do nothing else."
Though we were unable to reach Casey Polasko as she is currently studying in Cuba, her mother, Linda Polasko, was able to explain Casey’s inspiration for the club.
She came up with the idea after spending a summer in the INBRE Summer Scholars program, an 11-week research intensive course for Delaware students, said Linda, who works for the INBRE. Through it, Casey gained necessary research experience, but she felt that opportunities like hers were not well enough advertised to the rest of the student body, especially undergraduates.
“What we were finding was that it was mostly juniors and seniors that were applying for the [Summer Scholars] program,” she said. “What sparked some of the interest for this club is that we’re trying to reach people as freshman so they can have a longer research experience.”
For any student wondering why Montgomery feels research is so vital, she has a clear answer.
“Knowing about research matters,” she said. “It’s not only learning if you like it, but it’s making contacts that can give you references, letters of recommendation. The benefits of research are huge.”
Making the first move can still be challenging though, and that’s where the Undergraduate Research Club comes in. As general advice, Montgomery says that just being present is often times good enough.
“If you find a professor that you like who has a lab, go to it and just keep being there and eventually somebody is going to notice,” she said.