The Council on Undergraduate Research defines undergraduate research as an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original, intellectual, or creative contribution to the discipline. It is applicable to all disciplines, may be specific to a discipline, and requires a high standard identified by each discipline.
Support for the initiative is implemented through the Undergraduate Research Office, which helps students to identify research opportunities on and off campus. The office coordinates activities to increase opportunities for students to present their work, recognizing and honoring the students who engage in undergraduate research and the faculty members who mentor those students. In addition, the office also provides funding for student travel to present their work at professional and undergraduate research focused conferences.
Undergraduate research provides valuable learning experiences to students and is one of the high-impact educational practices that increase the rates of student retention and engagement. Participating in undergraduate research can help students prepare for professional and graduate programs and can enhance professional and academic credentials to support applications for scholarships, awards, career employment, and entry into graduate and professional schools.
While engaging in undergraduate research experiences, students can develop one-on-one mentoring relationships with faculty members, clarify academic and career interests and goals, acquire additional knowledge in their academic fields that transcends classroom study, and enhance critical skills in communication, independent thinking, creativity, and problem solving. Moreover, students conducting research will contribute to the creation of new knowledge on the cutting edge of their academic discipline and apply that knowledge to real world problems.
Student researchers often disseminate their work at professional meetings or submit their scholarship for publication in academic journals. These activities allow students the chance to make connections with and receive feedback from a broader audience than they may encounter on campus. Such experiences have value as students leave the university and enter today's workforce, where presentation, communication, and relationship skills are vital for their success.