Website launch connects students and graduates to research opportunities

Monday, September 2, 2019 - 12:48pm

The Chemistry Building at the University of Michigan houses many research projects for students and faculty.

The Chemistry Building at the University of Michigan houses many research projects for students and faculty. Buy this photo
Kelsey Pease/Daily

Perch, an online research platform created by a team of mostly University of Michigan students, launched Monday. The startup aims to connect more students and graduates across the country with research positions.

Engineering and LSA senior Akira Nishii came up with the idea for Perch after having trouble finding research opportunities when he entered the University. He found that outside of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, which is aimed at freshmen and sophomores, there was no centralized system that listed research opportunities and was accessible to all students.

“A lot of students are relying on very inefficient methods, like cold-emailing, or relying on personal connections to get into research opportunities,” Nishii said. 

He gathered a team of peers, and together they started working on a solution to centralize all the research opportunities. Now Perch has launched an encompassing database of inter-university research opportunities and research faculty. They have 16 partner universities, including the University of Michigan, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nolan Kataoka, chief technology officer of Perch and Engineering senior, highlighted Perch’s future plans for the platform.

“In the long term, we’d like to have a database of all the faculty in all the universities in the U.S.,” Kataoka said.

Perch also helps graduate students find employment and streamlines the process of helping graduates find positions outside of academia, Nishii said.

“In addition to the database of faculty and industrial research opportunities, we’re providing a matching algorithm where we help search through a Ph.D.’s list of publications, qualifications, skill sets,” Nishii said. “We help Ph.D.s identify jobs that are most relevant to them.”

On campus, Perch is partnered with a separate student organization at the University called Perch Education, which aims to expose students to the research world. It now hosts the Michigan Undergraduate Research Symposium, and offers courses to equip students with the skills to succeed in research.

Senior Associate Librarian at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, Jo Angela Oehrli, played a key role in Perch Education and acts as an advisor for the Perch platform team. Due to her background in education, she was able to help construct the teaching curriculum from scratch for Perch Education. 

Oehrli first served as a library mentor when Perch won the Library Student Mini Grant, and she looks forward to the addition of graduate opportunities.

“With the skill set of these Ph.D. candidates and recent Ph.D. earners … the research will be richer after that connection,” Oehrli said. “And that can make an impact on the world as well.”