Undergraduate Research Teaches Critical Thinking and Life Skills

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Karen Harwell, Ph.D.
Director, Undergraduate Research

If your student ever wonders what it would feel like to make that link between the known and the unknown and is interested in practicing “hands-on” application of their major, then they should look into the undergraduate research opportunities available at Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech’s position as a leading research university provides an ideal setting in which students can experience the exciting world of discovery by working directly with a faculty mentor. College of Computing faculty member Dr. Amy Bruckman describes research as “a chance to work on a totally new problem - one that no one has ever tackled before.” It’s an intellectual challenge. Laura Armanios, an undergraduate who has worked on projects in both aerospace engineering and French, describes research as “an opportunity to discover something new,” and suggests that students “take the initiative” to get involved.

Georgia Tech undergraduates can participate in research during fall, spring, and summer semesters either for course credit (graded) or for pay under the direction of a faculty or graduate student mentor. Research classes for course credit count toward free electives in most majors and discipline-specific electives in other majors. Most students work around 9-10 hours per week on a project and receive 3 hours of course credit. Students may also be hired as research assistants by their faculty mentors or be funded through the President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA). Options for research also include full-time summer experiences both on- and off-campus and international research.

Dr. Jud Ready, Georgia Tech Research Institute researcher and Material Science Engineering faculty member, describes research as “a fun way to get hands on application of theory learned in the classroom.” Furthermore, he agrees that the experiences look fantastic on a resume. Students involved in research gain skills in independent problem solving, communication, and in direct hands-on knowledge critical to providing immediate contributions in the workforce upon graduation. Plus, participants have something substantial to discuss with recruiters during interviews. Erin Epperson, a biology student, reported that she learned “not only about a specific topic area (chemotaxis), but how to manage time wisely, be patient with results, and devise [her] own hypotheses.” These skills are critical for not only graduate school, but also life in general.

Students can begin research at any time during their undergraduate career. The UROP office strongly suggests students begin early so that they have the additional benefit of working on a multiple semester project. This type of longer-term experience can lead to more independent work, and possibly to results that contribute to a journal article or conference presentation. A research thesis is also possible under the Research Option program. Students are encouraged to begin talking to faculty during Phase I registration for the term in which they’d like to begin work. In fact, early November is a great time to approach faculty regarding spring positions. The UROP office, an academic advisor, or the school’s undergraduate coordinator can assist students in finding projects.

For additional information, including video interviews of several students, visit the UROP Web site. Click here for copies of slides from the most recent UROP information session.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Created: 11/01/2009
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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