Undergraduate student participation in research continues to distinguish UT among its peers. The number of undergraduate students participating in research at UT grew more than 14 percent from 2018 to 2019; more than 10 times as many students are engaged in research work than only five years ago.
“We know that students who are engaged in research projects are driven to persist in their studies and graduate at a higher rate,” Chancellor Donde Plowman said. “Participating in research develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It’s valuable experience no matter what career path a student takes.”
In 2014, 401 students participated in research projects as undergraduates. For the 2018–19 academic year, 4,460 undergraduate students participated in research work, according to the university’s Office of Undergraduate Research. For 2017–18, that number was 3,906.
Marisa Moazen, assistant vice chancellor of research engagement and director of undergraduate research, attributes the growth to connecting undergraduate students with faculty research programs.
“Through proposal and funding support for faculty, UT has helped bolster the resources available to faculty to be successful mentors to students interested in research,” Moazen said. “The dialogue in all disciplines is shifting—undergraduate students participating in projects add great value to research teams.”
UT’s world-class faculty and broad-ranging partnerships—including the university’s relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory—play a critical role in attracting top students. The Office of Undergraduate Research hosts two annual events geared toward prospective students that highlight opportunities available to students: Research Day and Day at the Lab.
Moazen said that creating more entry points to research activity is key to UT’s success, such as expanding UT’s Programs Abroad in the Center for Global Engagement to include research opportunities.
A number of other indicators point to the university’s excellence in undergraduate research participation:
- UT’s growing research reputation is supported by the results of the 2019 National Survey of Student Engagement. This national survey asks first-year students and seniors to report how they are engaged on campus as individuals, as well as what they perceive their institutions emphasize. In the survey, UT saw an 8 percent increase in student-reported participation in a research project by their senior year—up from 31 percent in 2016, the last time the survey was administered at UT, to 39 percent this year. The university’s undergraduate research participation is outpacing its publicly funded peer institutions in the Southeastern Conference, in its Carnegie class of R1 universities, and among the institutions that conducted the NSSE in 2018 and 2019.
- For the 2017–18 academic year, UT was a finalist for the Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments granted by the Council on Undergraduate Research. CUR is a global organization of more than 700 individual and institutional members focused on providing high-quality collaborative undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity opportunities. The award draws upon demonstrated strengths aligned with the organization’s characteristics of excellence in undergraduate research.
- Four recent graduates and one current student from UT have been named winners in the prestigious 2019 Global Undergraduate Awards The Global Undergraduate Awards is the world’s largest international academic awards program, recognizing excellent research and original work across the sciences, humanities, business, and creative arts. All five were invited to attend the awards ceremony in Dublin, Ireland, this month.
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