Reaffirmation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) of LSU’s accreditation is well underway, and as a part of that process, the university has proposed a new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). This QEP represents a commitment by the university to provide our students with the very best educational experiences possible. For this reaffirmation cycle, LSU has selected to focus its QEP on undergraduate research. The proposed program, entitled LSU Discover, is intended to give every student the opportunity to engage in research experiences that will not only enhance the student’s future career, but can also have the potential to change the world for the better.
Currently, top students at LSU have the chance to engage in real research projects that have the possibility of making significant advances in their chosen fields. Faculty mentors work with these undergraduates on projects at or beyond graduate-level research, and students receive more than just their diplomas when they graduate. They leave LSU with real research experience that translates to enhanced assistantships at LSU and other prestigious graduate schools worldwide.
Several exceptional students have won prestigious awards for their work, and twelve have been chosen by their colleges as LSU Discover Scholars. These students were recognized during halftime at the LSU v. Arkansas football game in November 2013 for their achievements and for representing the potential for undergraduate research at LSU. Read more about these students in the article “Live Gold: LSU students recognized with prestigious national awards.”
One of these accomplished students, Jonathan Lambert, is a double major in coastal environmental science with a marine concentration in the School of the Coast & Environment and biological sciences in the College of Science. As an undergraduate, he has participated in notable research experiences, including at the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, at the LSU Southern Regional Climate Center, and at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – Biospheric Science Lab. When he was a junior in spring 2013, Lambert received the prestigious Udall Scholarship, becoming only the third person from LSU to win this award. He credits his research experiences for his selection.
“My involvement in undergraduate research provided me with a closer relationship with my college, professors, and peers than I could have gotten through just taking classes or joining student organizations,” Lambert explained. Of LSU Discover, he added, “Spotlighting undergraduate research is a great way to promote this experience so that other students will see its great joys and benefits.”
Through LSU Discover, opportunities like those Lambert has had would be extended to any LSU student who expresses an interest in research. Of course, each student who will participate in LSU Discover will also be expected to commit to the quality of work required to develop an acumen for research. According to the LSU Discover report, courses and training geared toward LSU Discover will include enhanced instruction in basic research principles. Combining technological literacy, investigation methods, professional ethics, critical thinking, and communication skills into this plan will ensure that students learn more than simply how to conduct an experiment or develop a survey. These skills have been deliberately chosen to help students become better professionals regardless of their future careers and of whether they continue into graduate school or not.
Additionally, LSU Discover plans include creating events—such as the upcoming Research Day on March 10—that will provide undergraduate researchers a venue for sharing their ideas, presenting their work, and networking with others. While this year’s event is scheduled for a single day, plans are in the works to spread activities over a Research Week in coming years. As the program continues to grow, other events, such as an undergraduate research conference, are also possible.
LSU’s Office of Undergraduate Research, headed by Professor Randy Duran, who is also one of the authors of LSU Discover, is leading this effort to teach more students how to conduct professional and responsible research projects.
“LSU Discover will dramatically enhance the number and quality of opportunities for research, innovation, and creativity for all students,” Duran explained recently.
Vice Chancellor of Research & Economic Development K. T. Valsaraj added, “Exposing undergraduates to the excitement of research is a wonderful way to increase the pipeline of students to graduate school and professional opportunities.”
Working with Duran is Sarah Ferstel, who is the primary point of contact for students interested in becoming involved in LSU Discover. For more information about this program, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225-578-8914.