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URSAMelissa Lee decided she wanted to study neuroscience while still in high school in Brentwood, Tennessee.

After spending two summers working in a neurobiology lab in Nashville, Lee enrolled at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she began working in Rebecca Prosser’s circadian neurobiology lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Now a junior studying neuroscience in the College Scholars program, Lee is one of a growing number of UT undergraduates doing research as part of their university experience. There are about 1,500 undergraduate research projects going on at UT.

The Undergraduate Research Students Association will kick off this year with a meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 18, in the Shiloh Room at the University Center. Pizza will be provided, and students can learn about the organization and its goals.

Lee co-founded the Undergraduate Research Students’ Association with Mark Remec, a senior in biochemistry and molecular biology. They wanted to spread the word about undergraduate research opportunities.

“We both see research as the most valuable aspect of our undergraduate educations, and we feel like its importance is overlooked at UT,” she said. “Graduate and medical school admissions have gotten so competitive that doing some undergraduate research is all but required.”

Increasing undergraduate research opportunities are part of the university’s efforts to become a Top 25 public research university.

“By working alongside a faculty mentor, UTK students have a tremendous opportunity to make their own exciting discoveries, to apply their education in ways that will further their career, and often help faculty further their research interests,” said Sharon Pound, an editor in the Office of Research.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Lee Riedinger, the Interim Vice Chancellor for Research, will talk about opportunities for research positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Representatives from other organizations also will speak, including the Office of Research, the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, and Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research.

Lee said that the Undergraduate Research Students’ Association hopes to “promote undergraduate research, connect students and faculty members, [and] create a community of undergraduate researchers.”

Lee said undergraduate research covers a broad spectrum of subjects; it’s not just for students in the hard sciences.

Undergraduate research includes “creative achievement,” she said, so students in the arts can be involved too.

For more information, visit research.utk.edu.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@utk.edu)

Holly Gary (865-974-2225, hgary@utk.edu)