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The Undergraduate Research Program


The true spirit of science can not be obtained strictly from books or predetermined laboratory assignments; it must be experienced through the successes and failures of scientific research. The goal of the Undergraduate Research Program (URP) is to combine research, professional, and outreach experiences that will provide our students with the necessary tools to intelligently and actively participate in an increasingly technical world.

Students in poster section of  URP

Program Objectives

To provide students with hands-on learning. Both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the recent Bower report document the importance of undergraduate research for young scientists. It broadens their view of science and helps them to reach important career decisions. At the same time, students learn the importance of knowing a topic in depth as well as carrying a project from conception to presentation.

To encourage science teacher and health science student participation. By providing aspiring teachers with firsthand experience in fields of science, they will be enabled to teach with enthusiasm and knowledge about scientific issues. The URP will provide them with a rare opportunity to experience science in a way that most teachers do not, through laboratory research. In addition, many health science students are interested in discovering the science behind clinical treatments, thereby, expanding their understanding of the role of the fundamental in the applied.

To encourage students to begin research projects early in their college career. Students are encouraged to participate as early as their freshman year. Traditionally, many students do not begin such hands on experience until their junior or senior year. Younger students are just as capable of learning and succeeding. In fact, these students can be so successful that their efforts result in the completion of a significant project.

To encourage students to give back to the community. A key part of a scientific career today is giving back to the community. Each student will participate in community service directly related to the sciences. Some options include teaching river ecology through RiverQuest and mentoring participants in the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

To expose students to professional experiences. The students will write a paper and participate in conferences and poster sessions. These practices will provide opportunities for scientific communication. In addition to local activities, many students accompany faculty to national meetings and co-author peer-reviewed publications.

To provide students with a seminar series and opportunities for quality interactions with others in the program. Many students are unsure of their career path. They may have a general area of science selected, but are unsure of the possibilities within that field. Through a seminar series, students will have the opportunity to meet and talk with professionals from industry, government, and academia who will provide insight into their work and professional lives.

To expose students to different ethical issues in the science and technology fields. Students will participate in the annual Ethics Forum in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative. Students are divided into groups of four or five and assigned a mentor. Students will select a topic of their choice and research, formulate, and present their findings to other students and faculty.