Undergraduate research (UR) is a great way for students to learn outside the classroom and gain much needed knowledge about their major and chosen career. Many programs do not require students to participate in undergraduate research, leaving it up to the student to decide if they want to participate. Programs that include the requirement provide advanced skills for graduates.
The Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences is working to encourage undergraduate research. Dr. Tammy Stephenson, Director of Undergraduate Studies, has provided leadership to this effort. Dr. Stephenson remarked, "Undergraduate research provides students with the unique opportunity to apply the knowledge they are learning in class to a real-world project. Students are encouraged to select innovative and interesting research topics that will enhance the nutrition profession and their undergraduate education."
Human nutrition students are required to take a two class sequence focused on undergraduate research their senior year. During the first semester students are taught research theory, which consists of textbook assignments, human subjects training and the development of a research proposal. In the second semester, students are required to collect their own data, analyze the data, write an abstract, write a 15-20 page professional paper, and present their project to their peers and the faculty. Students also present their final projects at the UK Annual Showcase of Scholars. This spring, the 7th annual showcase will be held in the Student Center Ballroom on April 25th from 4-7pm.
Students who choose to participate in competition can present their projects at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NUCR) which will be held at the University of Kentucky in 2014. Many research resources are provided to students and faculty. Students can seek help with writing abstracts, presentation strategies, making professional posters, and funding. In addition, students receive resources through SPUR, a student organization focused on assisting undergraduates interested in research. Faculty who choose to be research mentors are provided resources such as ideas to enhance mentoring experiences, articles on undergraduate research, and a list of time-saving tips to maximize learning.
Undergraduate research recruitment doesn't stop at students. Within the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, faculty are encouraged to serve as undergraduate research mentors. The Office of Undergraduate Research at UK provides a matching service for students and mentors. Both fill out questionnaires and have the opportunity to meet with their match before they commit.
With the undergraduate research requirement, the department of Nutrition and Food Sciences aims to improve the education of their students. The goal is to better prepare students for their future careers by giving the tools to make it to the top in their field.