Undergraduate research: The competitive edge

students doing field research

 

By Lisa Hall and Markus Smith

“To students planning on applying to graduate programs, I would highly suggest getting started in undergraduate research as soon as possible,” says alumni Justin Putz, a biology major who graduated from the School of STEM in 2015. Putz sought out research opportunities during his first quarter at UW Bothell. The sophomore transfer student found his opportunity with Dan Jaffe, Ph.D., professor of environmental chemistry. “Our research involved atmospheric sampling for particulate matter near railroads so it involved a lot of instrumentation setup, trouble shooting, and data collection off campus,” he says. 
 
The type of connected learning experience that Justin received through his undergraduate research is often attractive to employers. Graduates are prepared with valuable skills and hands-on collaborative experience.
 
“Students learn by participating in high impact educational practices in undergraduate research. These types of experiences extend your learning beyond the classroom in an engaging way to increase your critical skills, problem solving and analytical thinking,” says Charlotte Rasmussen, Ph.D., director of undergraduate research. These skills are extremely important for recent graduates headed into jobs that not only require a degree, but experience as well.
 
Brandon Shuman of Spiration Olympus says he was impressed with UW Bothell students on one of his research projects. “They come to a problem with a proactive leadership-driven style and provide the right solution in an efficient manner.” Shuman said he has mentored students from other universities and students from UW Bothell bring unique experience.
 
During any given quarter, Rasmussen says there are more than 80 undergraduate research projects going on with more than 800 students involved in research either independently or within regular coursework. See all the research opportunities currently available.