Exploring undergraduate research | The Triangle

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Exploring undergraduate research

More than 150 Drexel University students will be presenting research they carried out as part of the Students Tackling Advanced Research (STAR) Scholars Program Aug. 25. The Summer Showcase event will take place in Bossone Research Center, and each participating student will present a poster detailing their research.

The ultimate goal of the STAR program is to introduce students to the research enterprise with the help of qualified supervisors, according to Associate Director of Undergraduate Research Jaya Mohan. Through the program, freshman students are matched with faculty mentors who guide them through ten weeks of research in a field of their choosing.

“It’s an opportunity for high achieving, highly motivated first year students from across the university to conduct faculty mentored research,” she elaborated. “Ultimately, our goal is to introduce students to the research enterprise.”

Many students do independent research in order to develop skills associated with their major and to learn more about their field of interest. Emily Pillet, a rising pre-junior biology major, has been doing research since high school and was a member of the STAR Scholars Program in 2015.

“The first time I was exposed to research, I realized, ‘wow, this could be a way that I might be able to make a difference,’” Pillet said.

During her time in the STAR Program, Pillet learned many important laboratory techniques and was also able to contribute her time to cancer research. All of these experiences have influenced her plans to continue doing research after college.

However, the program isn’t exclusive to science majors. Mohan, who also serves as one of the coordinators of the STAR Scholars Program, explained that students from all majors have access to valuable experiences.

“Students that participate in research from the non-STEM fields report the same learning gains,” Mohan stated.

“It also gives students confidence. It teaches students professional skills in terms of time management, talking with your manager and being responsible,” she continued.

The program has been in place for more than a decade and runs each year from the end of June to the end of August, taking up one full quarter. Students work full time under a faculty mentor to learn about and assist with their mentor’s research. Science majors spend a lot of time in the lab, performing experiments that students might not otherwise be exposed to until much later in their college career.

Many students enjoy being able to gain skills from experienced faculty and assistant research professors.

“My mentor is amazing. He shows me what he needs to show me but he has given me a lot of independence. Whenever I have a question, he is always there,” Arjun Ganesh, a rising sophomore biology major who is currently in the STAR Program, said.

Mohan expanded on the benefits on the mentor-mentee relationship facilitated by the STAR program.

“That personal relationship with a faculty member really gives you the opportunity as a student to learn from a professional who pursued the path you may want to take,” she said.

“Now, at this stage, I would say that undergraduate research is expected on graduate school applications,” Mohan continued, emphasizing the importance of undergraduate research opportunities.

Pillet explains that students get more out of the STAR program than just research experience — some are able to help make a difference in their field.

“A lot of students who are currently doing undergraduate research are lucky enough to realize that we’re at the age where we can start to make a difference and do some amazing things,” Pillet said.

The presentation session, which will take place Aug. 25, begins at 9 a.m. and is open to the public. A full schedule of events can be found at http://drexel.edu/undergraduate-research/STAR-scholars/summer-showcase/.

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