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Undergraduate Research at U of U to Transform Students into “Undergraduate Research Scholars”

Oct. 13, 2006 — Undergraduate students at the University of Utah who meet eligibility requirements, including performing research under the tutelage of a faculty sponsor, will now be able to receive a special designation in the awards section of their transcripts: Undergraduate Research Scholar.

Last spring, the Trustees of the University of Utah approved the designation, which will be bestowed upon eligible students graduating in December. To receive the title, students, in addition to working with a faculty sponsor for two semesters, must present as participants in a University, state or national research symposium as well as publish in a University campus research publication or other academic or professional journal.

Although many American colleges and universities offer research classes, the new University research designation, based on the research activity of each student-rather than enrollment in research courses, is unique and only offered by a few universities in the country.

Joe Hui (pronounced “hoy”) is a 22-year old senior University bioengineering student who plans to receive a joint B.S./M.S. degree this spring, upon completion of his thesis. Hui intends to apply for the Undergraduate Research Scholar designation.

Three years ago, Hui began research to apply classroom concepts learned while studying biomedical engineering. Funding from the National Science Foundation, the U’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the U’s Department of Orthopedics allowed Hui to conduct research in the laboratories of Keith Roper, assistant professor of Chemical Engineering, and more recently, Nicholas Brown, research assistant professor of Orthopedic Surgery.

“This experience has been very worthwhile, as the intellectual pursuit of solving novel problems cannot be replicated in the classroom,” says Hui. “Having world class researchers as mentors facilitates thought-provoking discussions in which new ideas are constructively critiqued.” In fact, it was because of his positive research experience with Brown that Hui decided to pursue the joint degrees in bioengineering.

Hui was initially interested in the Undergraduate Research Scholar designation because, “as an undergraduate researcher, recognition through scholarly articles is often difficult. As a result, this designation allows for public recognition of work that may otherwise not be publicized.”

Steven Roens, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies and director of UROP at the U, notes, “Most college students have to wait until graduate school to conduct research. But at the University, our students can immerse themselves in the exhilarating work of research and discovery while still undergraduates.”

U students who desire the new Undergraduate Research Scholar designation will be required to submit copies of symposia programs and abstracts from journals in which they have participated or been published to indicate that they have complied with the requirements for the transcript designation. An application, to be signed by the student’s sponsor or the director of the student’s research program, is available on-line at Students will also be required to turn in their applications and supporting materials to a five-person subcommittee of the Undergraduate Council, which will award the designation.