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Lora Doherty, a senior in therapeutic recreation, has been researching how camps can help children in military families cope with a parent’s deployment.

Lora Doherty

The research not only deepened her understanding of coursework but also gave her a leg up on other applicants when applying to graduate school.

Doherty, of Knoxville, is among 1,400 UT undergraduates involved in research. Between 2015 and 2016 the number of UT undergraduates doing research more than doubled and the number of faculty mentors increased 87 percent.

With her father, Thomas Doherty, being a UT veterinary medicine professor, Lora Doherty spent plenty of time on campus as a child and was always intrigued by the research posters she saw in the hallways.

Now she’s the researcher.

During the summer of 2015, Doherty worked at Operation Purple Camp—a North Carolina camp for youth from military families.

“In my major, we talk about the value of recreation and improving people’s quality of life—which isn’t limited to people with disabilities,” said Doherty. “I thought about other ways you can improve life through recreation, and Operation Purple Camp came to mind.”

Doherty returned to Operation Purple Camp in the summer of 2016 as a researcher and surveyed 100 campers. She found the camp helped kids connect with peers going through similar situations, develop a support system outside the home, and learn how to cope with a parent’s deployment.

Angela Wozencroft, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, helped guide Doherty through the research process.

Doherty said undergraduate research did more than help her understand her field of study.

“I interviewed with five graduate schools and I was accepted at all five,” she said, adding that research experience “set me apart from the other applicants.”

Doherty will begin graduate school in occupational therapy in the fall.