Undergraduate Research and Student Innovation: The Skills to Shape Our World
Christopher Reaves, Ph.D.
Director, Undergraduate Research and Student Innovation
Program Coordinator, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
If your student is ready for a challenge, likes working beyond the traditional boundaries of coursework, and wants to participate in something “hands-on,” then undergraduate research is a must. Georgia Tech is a leading research university and provides extraordinary opportunities for students to enter the exciting world of discovery and innovation. In Georgia Tech’s strategic plan, President G. P. “Bud” Peterson states, “Our role is not only to solve problems, but to shape our world.” Undergraduate research at Georgia Tech helps students acquire this experience, helping them create their own path and set them apart from others.
Opportunities for research experience are available year-round, either for course credit or for pay. Research classes for credit count toward free electives in most majors and discipline-specific electives in others. Faculty mentors may hire students as research assistants, or students may receive funding through the President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) http://urop.gatech.edu/pura. Options for research also include full-time summer experiences, both on- and off-campus, and international research.
While open to all students, students planning to pursue graduate degrees or a future career in research and development industries should consider a more robust research experience: the Research Option http://urop.gatech.edu/research-option. This thesis-based program provides an opportunity to get first-hand experience in substantive research, culminating in the production of a thesis paper. It is an excellent way to gain valuable skills and experience into applied or basic research, thus bolstering their graduate school preparation. In addition, many scientific and technical firms favor graduates possessing these practical skills.
To take the student research initiative even further, the Institute has placed an increasing emphasis on students thinking and acting innovatively, hence the creation of the InVenture Prize Competition http://www.inventureprize.gatech.edu. Starting with the student’s own idea, faculty mentors help lead students through a process that culminates in a final, on-stage competition which is broadcast live on public television. From idea to innovation, concept to prototype, problem to solution, the InVenture Prize Competition helps develop individuals who not only have the technical know-how, but also are entrepreneurially savvy.
Students can also attend Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) workshops, participate in the annual Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium, and learn how to find funding for research. Advising is also available for students as they look for research opportunities. Students of all years (freshman through senior) can also participate in student research or innovation organizations – the Student Advisory Board for Undergraduate Research (SABUR), The Tower http://gttower.org, Georgia Tech’s undergraduate research journal, or the Startup Exchange http://startupexchange.gatech.edu, a hub for entrepreneurship.