Editorial: How UConn Health attracts undergraduate researchers

UConn Health has succeeded in drawing talent to its Farmington labs that are doing some of the most exciting and relevant research at the University. (File photo/The Daily Campus)

STEM majors often have a hard time finding opportunity outside of the classroom during their time as an undergraduate. The sheer number of students across the country majoring in similar disciplines far outnumber the number of internships and research opportunities available. UConn Health has made strides this past year to fill the gap for UConn students.

Started as a trial run of 17 students this past winter and expanded to 40 this summer, UConn Health has succeeded in drawing talent to its Farmington labs that are doing some of the most exciting and relevant research at the University. UConn Health plans to continue to post research opportunities on their website this coming year.

The old way of securing a position in a research lab required a student to email the Principle Investigator (PI) regarding opportunities. This method does not do any favors for UConn Health though. Located in Farmington, students often do not think of, or cannot, apply for positions that would require a forty-plus minute drive from Storrs. Often, labs at the health center go understaffed and the research being done slows.

Since the program has started, many students have sent in applications and of those accepted, most will be continuing their research into the school year. This speaks volumes to the talent this program was able to attract in just its first year and how great of an opportunity it is to the students.

UConn professors at Storrs should follow UConn Health’s model. While many labs are not currently seeking more undergraduate help, those that are understaffed should post openings for students. There is a stigma that more qualified students will apply if they need to search out a PI first rather than applying to a position but as shown through this past summer, qualified students still apply even when applications are made public.

There is some very exciting research happening on campus that many students never hear about. Currently, the method of finding research entails going from website to website to find and interesting research topic and individually emailing the professor in charge. This is both an outdated and ineffective method.

If a central application was created, professors would have less emails to sort through and students would be better able to find a lab position that suited their interests.