UNLV researches abroad
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Undergrad research program sends students to China
UNLV’s desire to assert itself as an international research institution was on display during the summer months.
This summer, three UNLV students attended a two-month research study in China as part of an intensive undergraduate research program, while others performed laborious research at UNLV.
The summer research programs — administered by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and the Research Experience for Undergraduates at UNLV — provide undergraduate students from across the nation with opportunities to perform research generally reserved for graduate students or faculty.
The three students in China spent two months working with students from Chinese and U.S. universities, studying bacteria and organisms in hot springs.
Nicole Calica, a senior at UNLV, had spent a previous semester studying insects. The opportunity allowed her to get out of the lab and experience research in a completely different culture.
There was “a lot of pointing” due to the language barrier, Calica said.
Calica and the other two students won awards for presentations on their research. She said she plans on attending medical school and feels that, with this experience, her chances of admission have gone up.
Fifty students from universities around the country were accepted into the summer research programs. Funding for the program came from government grants from groups like NASA and the National Science Foundation. Awards were disbursed to individual departments and a portion was pooled to organize UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program).
The undergraduate program is held in high regard by many of the faculty such as Brian Hedlund, associate professor at the School of Life Sciences, helps administer the Tengchong PIRE project — the Chinese collaboration that sent the students overseas this summer.
“I don’t think … they celebrate undergraduate research to the extent that we do,” Hedlund said, comparing UNLV to other institutions.
John Farley, a physics professor at UNLV, coordinated research programs for physics students given that faculty oversees and designs projects the students are involved in.
“With research problems, it’s much more nebulous,” Farley said describing the students’ research experience. “You don’t know … what the answer is. It’s not in the back of any body’s book.”
The summer research culminated on Aug. 9 in a public poster session, which showcased the results of the research the students had performed.
“Any student interested in physics, chemistry, or biology can get paid to do research,” said UNLV School of Life Sciences professor Kurt Regner.
The process is competitive, but it is worth the sacrifice, said Regner, who advised students who are involved in the sciences to contact their respective department and inquire about UROP.
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