Research opportunities are growing fast for undergraduate students at Texas Tech.
Programs like Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) and Pi Squared are helping not only build students résumés, but also give the students real-life experience.
Michael San Francisco, dean of the Honors College, said there are many benefits to engaging in research programs.
“(Students) can do research either for money, they get paid hourly, or they do research for credit,” he said. “But the bottom line is the engagement in that experience to do something outside the classroom.”
Approximately 1,500 undergraduate students conduct research in many departments across campus. San Francisco said the most rewarding part about the student’s involvement in URS or Pi2 is the growth in their imagination.
“(Students) ask questions about things we do not understand and then to design experiments to address those questions,” he said.
Lori Lightfoot, lead administrator, said she agreed with San Francisco on the importance of this research and its implications for student development.
“Research is life changing on many levels,” she said. “Students need to have an intellectual curiosity you know why is the sky blue, somebody wondered that and started doing research.”
Every discipline and study at Tech is involved in research, Lightfoot said. She encourages all students to try out URS and Pi2 because of the benefits and doors it can open for them.
“They may decide ‘This is horrible, why did I do this?’ but that’s valuable too because that’s a door closed but it has opened a lot of doors for a lot of students that they never knew existed,” she said.
When students think of research, they generally think of STEM majors, but this is not the case, Lightfoot said. Although the majority of research projects are science related, there is a mix of different majors, such as music and english, involved as well.
Aryiah Stith, a junior microbiology major from Smyer, said that being a part of the Pi2 program and the URS program provided a hands on experience.
“It was interesting to me that I could get so hands-on, and I’ve like barely been in college for a year, so I was like I’m going for it,” she said.
Her research revolved around a fungus that is making frogs across the globe go extinct. She is trying to understand the fungus and how it is destroying frog populations.
“It’s like kind of groundbreaking because no ones really done it,” she said. “We were doing environmental DNA research over the same fungus and so whenever I found that Dr. San Francisco was doing research, but it was more in-depth and it wasn’t just going out to lakes and taking samples, and I could actually grow the fungus.”
From a student perspective, the program goes beyond research, providing better life skills. Time management is a huge part of adding research to a student’s work load, she said.
“I think its teaching me how to have time management because I have to actually find time to come to the lab and I have to find time to read the papers, and make sure I’m understanding everything that is going on,” she said.
The research program has proven fruitful, Lightfoot said, she can recall something a student said in the past about his experience in research she loved, she said.
“He’s like, ‘What you learn in the classroom is knowledge theory when you do research it’s applied, you have problems that you have no idea and it’s not what you learned in the book so you have take those things you’ve learned and apply them in a way to enable you to do, to solve this thing,’ Lightfoot said. “So, I think that’s really great.”