This is an excerpt from the Daily’s 2014 Orientation Issue. To read the rest of the issue, click here.
As you make your journey to Ann Arbor, you will be entering one of the largest research universities in the country. Each year, the University spends about $1.3 billion on research efforts. Even as a freshman, there are opportunities to get involved in these efforts.
While biomedical research receives the lion’s share of funding, research projects can be found in almost every college and school on campus, covering any number of topics. Incoming freshmen can learn about the various types of research through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program — UROP — and programs like it on campus.
Celebrating its 25th year, UROP works to pair about 1,400 undergraduates — primarily freshmen and sophomores, with hundreds of faculty across campus to engage in yearlong research projects. Students have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty advisor and present their research at the UROP symposium in April.
UROP associate director Catalina Ormsby said the program is open to all students and stressed that prior research experience is not a requirement for admission. In fact, most students enter the program with little or no work experience in the area they intend to study.
“It’s an opportunity for students to explore their interests, to learn skills in their field, to have hands-on experience and professional experience too,” Ormsby said.
Students in the program are provided a variety of resources to help them find and progress through a research project, such as peer advisors and guest speakers, which occur during bi-weekly research seminars throughout the year.
“UROP makes the University of Michigan community smaller because they will be able to connect with someone in their field and it’s very different than the classroom environment,” Ormsby said.
Perhaps the greatest resource UROP provides is close interaction with a faculty member who is an expert in the field. These faculty, many of whom have been involved in the program for several years, can often help students explore majors, discuss career options and assist in graduate school admissions.
Students and faculty are paired through a selection process in September, which involves admitted UROP students engaging in interviews with potential labs to determine which lab best suits their personality and interests.
Ormsby said the biggest misconception among students is that their faculty member will expect them to have prior research experience. Very few students have any experience at the beginning of the process. The program is designed to allow students to learn the necessary skills as they work through the semester.
Additionally, freshmen and sophomores who start a research project through UROP will often have the option of continuing their work over the course of their time at the University. With enough time, many even have the opportunity to have their work published in a research journal or to present their work at a large number of professional conferences around the nation.
UROP students can receive two to four credits for their work in the program, and are expected to work six to twelve hours per week. Students awarded work-study funding can also receive monetary compensation for participating in the program.
Students not involved in UROP can also earn credit for independent research, often satisfying major requirements, though such credit is often granted at the 300 and 400-level after completion of basic prerequisites. Many researchers on campus offer options for undergraduates to participate in projects. Students can choose to simply ask a professor about research options after class or during office hours, or can seek out a specific researcher based on the topics they study.
Lab and departmental websites will often provide information about the topics being researched. Browsing these resources can expose students to new fields they may not have known about before coming to the University.
UROP’s priority admission deadline is June 6, after which they move to a rolling admissions system. Ormsby encouraged students to apply as soon as possible.