Undergraduate research program helps open paths to student and faculty success
Above: After a semester or more of hard work, the semi-annual FURI Symposium gives undergraduate researchers the opportunity to showcase their contributions to research efforts. Students gain valuable experience in presenting and explaining their work, a vital skill needed for conferences. Photographer: Nick Narducci/ASU.
Not too long ago, undergraduate students had few opportunities to participate in research. As more and more employers and graduate schools have come to expect such experience, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering have risen to the challenge to provide undergraduates with an avenue to gain research skills. Since its start in the 2005 spring semester with 35 students participating, the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative has grown to support 118 students in the fall 2016 semester.
FURI enables undergraduate students the opportunity to perform research, attend workshops, prepare research summaries and participate in at least one of the semi-annual FURI symposiums. It has become one of the premier undergraduate experiential opportunities in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. It is designed to enhance and enrich a student’s engineering education by providing hands-on lab experience, independent and thesis-based research and travel to national conferences. Students select, design and complete research projects under the guidance of faculty mentors and present their findings at an annual public symposium.
Undergraduate research gives students an idea of what a career in science and engineering would be like and can give them an edge in applying for graduate schools and jobs. That edge isn’t what it used to be, though, as many graduate schools and employers have come to expect it.
“This research experience has allowed me to learn more than I was able to in regular engineering coursework, by giving me hands-on experience in designing the experiments, and simply learning and figuring things out as I went along by challenging myself to find the best possible outcomes using all my resources,” says electrical engineering student Helena Nabaty. “It has also allowed me to be a self-starter and to manage my time better. I believe these personal lessons will be extremely valuable in anything I attempt in the nearest future.”
Undergraduate research can be valuable to all students, not just those bound for graduate school or research-oriented jobs. Familiarity with how research is conducted helps students develop the skills necessary to evaluate claims from research that stand to affect their day-to-day lives. It also creates a familiarity with software, equipment or techniques that may be desirable to prospective employers.
“The FURI program provided so many opportunities to improve my professional and technical skills,” says biomedical engineering student Megan Wieser.
The benefits of FURI extend beyond just the students that participate, the semi-annual FURI Symposium gives attendees a great way to get a taste for research. Attendees are able to interact with the students and learn about their research experiences. They can also meet faculty members who mentored the students and learn about current ongoing research in the Fulton Schools. The fall 2016 FURI Symposium will take place from 1–3 p.m., Friday, November 18 in the Ventana Room (241) of the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe campus.
Faculty also get benefits from mentoring FURI students as they frequently co-author papers with students as a result of the experience. Collaborating with students and assessing student learning from these experiences can heighten a faculty member’s awareness of student learning needs and outcomes, potentially improving their teaching in courses that don’t involve undergraduate research.
“FURI has given me the opportunity to run my own experiment and presented me with a variety of challenges which I never would have had the opportunity to learn from before,” says biomedical engineering student Nicholas Walker. “I’m planning on spending my life doing research and this was a fantastic first experience!”
Erik Wirtanen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering