Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | UA students should consider undergraduate research

CW / Victor Hagan
Russell Hall is the Office of Undergraduate Research on campus.

While most undergraduate students at The University of Alabama are worried about their classes, balancing a part-time job or preparing for their future, many students don’t take advantage of one of the University’s most valuable opportunities, undergraduate research. 

The University is an R1-level research institution, meaning it is among the universities with the highest levels of research activity in the United States.

However, most students do not seem to know how many research opportunities are available to them, and there is a perception that research is only within the STEM fields. In reality, research opportunities exist across every discipline at the University.

Undergraduate research can be one of the most beneficial experiences students have at college. Leanne Carroll, the University’s program manager for the Office for Undergraduate Research, told me that undergraduate research gives students “experience that shows you what you are trying to learn and hands-on experience in your chosen research area.”

These experiences in students’ chosen field of study help them decide if their current career path is right for them and aid them in developing time management skills, teamwork abilities and critical thinking capacity. 

It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success,” a study conducted by Hart Research Associates in 2013, found that 79% of employers want undergraduates to “complete a significant project before graduation that demonstrates their depth of knowledge in their major AND their acquisition of analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.”

By engaging in research here at the University, students gain skills that develop their abilities and concrete experience to help them stand out in an increasingly competitive workforce where even small differences may make the difference in obtaining preferred jobs. 

According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities, undergraduate research is also recognized as a high-impact learning practice that promotes a vigorous work ethic and critical thinking skills that push students to grow and become more skilled learners and competent workers.

One student who exemplifies undergraduate research success at the University is Yonathan Janka, a junior majoring in microbiology.

“Undergraduate research has been one of the most pivotal experiences during my time at The University of Alabama,” Janka said. “Challenging obstacles and projects have tested me to think critically and promptly.”

He also said his time researching at the University has helped him grow “from barely being able to analyze scientific literature to currently preparing two publications for submission in peer-reviewed journals.” Janka is leading his own project while planning to begin an accelerated master’s in biology in the spring. 

To get involved in these undergraduate research opportunities, students can take advantage of the Emerging Scholars Program for those with little to no research experience. This two-semester program is designed to teach students the basic skills necessary for research. It also aids students in forging new relationships with faculty members who can facilitate their future research ambitions. 

Another upcoming event is the Faculty Research Showcase, which introduces undergraduates to the wide-ranging research conducted at the University and connects students with faculty. Carroll emphasized the importance of developing connections with faculty, and this showcase provides the opportunity to get started. This year’s showcase will be held Oct. 31 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

To subscribe to the Undergraduate Research newsletter, students can visit and sign up under “Undergraduate Research News ListServ.” This newsletter is a great way to get weekly, up-to-date information about events and opportunities in undergraduate research as they become available. 

While these are some ways in which students can get involved in research, they are not the only steps. Scheduling a meeting with the Office for Undergraduate Research is a great idea. 

Students should seriously consider getting involved in research opportunities while still in undergrad because the developed skills, connections and experiences will benefit their long-term educational and career goals.

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