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Research is changing the undergraduate experience

Rising Trend

Research is changing the undergraduate experience

Jazz at New York's Lincoln Center. Climate change as seen on the shores of Lake Michigan. The politics of Islamophobia around the nation. These are among the hundreds of topics explored through recent undergraduate research projects at Northwestern.

The University continues to expand undergraduate research so that more students than ever get the chance to test their creative abilities and problem-solving skills in real-world conditions. In 2017, the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) held more than 2,000 individual advising appointments and funded more than 550 students — both record highs since the office's creation in 2012.

Once reserved for faculty and graduate students, research opportunities have changed the nature of the Northwestern undergraduate experience by providing a counterbalance to daily classroom teaching and learning. And they push younger students to think and collaborate in unfamiliar ways in order to make new and meaningful contributions to the worlds of art, humanities, science and well beyond.

Peter Civetta

We challenge students to immerse themselves in a singular question that stirs their passions and dig deeper for answers than they ever could in class.”

Peter Civetta
Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research

By the Numbers

$1.3 MFunds for students in 2017-18

365%Ten-year increase in funded students

$100,000Creative arts projects in 2017-18

Keys

What's happening at Northwestern?

Beyond the lab

Traditionally, most undergraduate research has occurred in science labs where the infrastructure already is in place. But Northwestern’s mission is to support projects in all disciplines, and there has been an increase of more than 100 percent in funding for arts and humanities projects in the past five years.

Research begins earlier

Traditionally, undergraduates would get involved in research for a senior thesis. But OUR was created to encourage students to start sooner. In 2017, 106 first- and second-year students received funds for summer projects, up from four in 2009.

Working with faculty

Students wanted more opportunities to work with faculty, so OUR created the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. It has grown in eight years from 13 to more than 150 students, with a focus on the arts and humanities where funded opportunities had been scarce.

Profiles

Meet four researchers

Political journalist

Political journalist

Sumaia Masoom
The social policy major is a published writer, so she might be biased. But she believes in the power of words. She's found that immigrant groups are in fact not voiceless — they just need to be heard. In analyzing political Islamophobia after the 2016 U.S. election, she's unwrapped personal stories of Muslim college students victimized by crime and bias.

Read more
Jazz duo

Jazz duo

Louis Danowsky and Sam Wolsk
The duo formed D.W. Jazz Orchestra during their freshman year and used an undergraduate research grant to craft their first album, an eight-track, big-band effort recorded at New York's Avatar Studios and released in May 2017. Coming soon is their second album, a recording of their live performance at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, part of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Read more
Earth scientist

Earth scientist

Katie Braun
Environmental scientist Katie Braun is digging deep, literally, to examine the effects of climate change at Illinois Beach State Park. She is measuring carbon movement at wetlands there, which have suffered massive erosion in recent years. The erosion releases carbon into Lake Michigan, where it can return to the atmosphere and contribute to greenhouse warming.

Read more

Next Steps

Get started with advising

"We're here to walk students through every step of the journey," Civetta said. "Students don’t need to come in with a plan, just a passion. We want them to have these experiences, but we know they need help. Northwestern students have the creativity, intellect and drive.  We just light the path for them."

Plus, OUR works closely with the faculty review committee, so it is in position to give students inside information on what the committee wants to see.

Located at 1801 Hinman Ave., OUR has plenty of room for workshops, advising and just hanging out.

Published: May 14, 2018. Updated: May 17, 2018.

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