Queen’s needs to better advertise its research opportunities

Research benefits both Queen’s and undergraduates

Leo believes Queen’s should promote and celebrate undergraduate research.
Photo by Curtis Heinzl
The role of research in shaping the future of the academic world and university cannot be overemphasized. Research contributes to the advancement of knowledge and helps students apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world problems. 
Undergraduate students are often the most enthusiastic learners, eager to explore new ideas and test their hypotheses. Universities have a responsibility to effectively encourage and promote research among students and need to take innovative steps to reach out to students and promote opportunities that will help them develop their research skills and passions.
A recent annual Senate and Board of Trustee retreat focusing on research discussed the potential mutual actions of both the two highest governing bodies to work towards promoting research activities and strategies to adopt collaboratively. 
While this was not a decision-making event, the retreat still demonstrates the commitment—or at least willingness—of the University administration to promote research among their undergraduate population. This is further supported by the increased seats in Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship (USURF), on-going program development across faculties, and a section of discussion on undergraduate research. 
Research offices and different faculties at Queen’s offer their own programs and initiatives students should be aware of when planning to conduct research. 
For example, the faculty of Arts and Science has the Art & Science Undergraduate Research Fund (ASURF), thesis courses, research-based courses, and research assistant opportunities. Commerce, although not a research-focused faculty, is working to introduce new research courses and programs to increase undergraduate students' awareness of opportunities, such as a new initiative named SERA. Engineering also offers many lab-based research opportunities under faculty supervision, which usually involve a background in the field.
Yet, for all of this, many undergraduate students are still not aware of the plethora of research programs offered by the university and their faculty. Queen’s must find unique and effective strategies to educate the student community on these opportunities.
Hosting an annual student-run research fair supported by the research office would be a great way to showcase the innovative research Queen’s students are conducting while encouraging others to follow in their footsteps. The fair could feature various faculty and department booths, showcasing their research programs and current research projects. 
Faculty members, graduate students, or even undergraduate student researchers could answer questions and provide firsthand information about the opportunities available to students. A fair such as this would also attract student-run journals and publications where students can showcase their writing skills and have their work recognized by their peers and faculty members. 
Encouraging interdisciplinary research would foster cross-faculty collaboration, bringing students together to work on a single research topic. The University should consider interdisciplinary team research seats on USURF.
For example, research on how inflation affects customer behavior could bring students and faculty members from economics, psychology, marketing, and sometimes even other faculties that are not closely related into a potential study. 
This can be achieved by establishing an internal university communication channel to match students who have ideas and people who are experienced. Such collaboration would help broaden students' perspectives and create new insights in their respective fields.
A ceremony celebrating students’ hard work would be another way to acknowledge and reward the hard work and dedication of undergraduate researchers. 
Recognizing students who have excelled in research outside of existing programs such as USURF would incentivize more students to engage in it. A ceremony would give researchers a sense of accomplishment and recognition for their time and effort, motivating them to continue pursuing their academic and professional goals.
This event could serve as a networking opportunity, providing students the chance to meet and connect with other peer researchers, faculty members, and professionals, potentially leading to new collaborations and career advancements. Students could receive reference letters from faculty for graduate school applications, and faculty members could use this event to find students for research assistant roles. 
The process to select who can conduct research still needs to remain competitive, rewarding students willing to put in the consistent effort and passion into their work. They should get support from the university to create a polished and valuable research paper. 
Your research doesn't have to be ground-breaking nor life-changing, as even a small-yet-unique observation can contribute tremendously to an academic field.
Ultimately, writing a research paper should not be treated as a mere graduate school application and resume booster, but as an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to create real-world impact in a practical way. 
Not every student may want to do research, but if Queen’s wants to maintain its reputation as a leader in research and innovation, more students need to be made aware of the opportunities available to them and their merits.  
Leo Yang is a second-year politics, philosophy, and economics student.

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