Why Participate in Undergraduate Research?
Have you ever imagined yourself being involved in the creation of new knowledge or the discovery of new ways of understanding? It’s pretty exciting.
Opportunities to Conduct and Present Research
Engaging in research is an opportunity to become more actively involved in your education through intellectual inquiry and experiential learning. It is a chance to explore your chosen field as well as other fields of interest, and an opportunity to develop the skills employers want (for example, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and communication).
Undergraduate researchers always have a research mentor, which could be a faculty member or a graduate student. In many cases, they are part of a faculty-led research team that includes graduate students and may include other undergrads. Some students are able to contribute to a journal article or conference presentation in which research findings are disseminated at a professional meeting.
Students may participate in research projects for course credit, as volunteers, or as paid research assistants. Sometimes faculty ask students to volunteer for a semester before considering them for a paid position.
Opportunities within the College of Education
The College of Education offers several types of research experiences for undergraduates.
Research Funded by MSU’s Office of Undergraduate Research
Each year, College of Education faculty are invited to apply for funds provided to the college by MSU’s Office of Undergraduate Research. Faculty submit research proposals early in the fall semester, and those who receive awards use the funds to hire undergraduate students on an hourly basis. Below are the Fall 2022 projects. Apply now!
If you have any questions about the Fall 2022 funded projects, contact Emily Bouck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educational Research on Student Motivation and Engagement in STEM Fields
Students will participate in multiple educational research projects on student motivation, engagement, and achievement using data from adolescent and young adult populations. The majority of our research is aimed to identify personal and contextual factors that support or discourage student engagement and persistence in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields – with a specific focus on better supporting female, first-gen, and minoritized students STEM engagement. This research has taken various forms over the years, including classroom-based surveys and meta-analysis (i.e., combining data from multiple studies) projects. The purpose of this RA position is to provide undergraduate researchers with research training and experience at the intersection of educational, developmental, and social psychology. Undergraduate assistants will attend weekly lab meetings and work closely with graduate students and a post-doctoral scholar to help with tasks such as data collection, data processing, data management, and reviews of relevant literature. Undergraduate assistants will also have opportunities to develop independent research projects, including participation in undergraduate research events (e.g., University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences) based on their own research ideas with their mentors’ guidance.
To apply for this position or to ask any questions, please contact the post-doctoral scholar, Sharlyn Ferguson-Johnson (email@example.com). Please also visit https://sites.google.com/msu.edu/llgarcia/people/lab-collaborators/mi-state-motivate for more information on our lab.
Clinical Outcomes after Orthopaedic Surgery
Faculty: Dr. Matt Harkey
The purpose of this study is to prospectively measure patient-reported, functional, biomechanical, and imaging outcomes among patients during the first 2 years after knee surgery. Participants will be enrolled prior to their return to sport and will be assessed serially during the first 2 years following surgery and then at annual intervals after that. Assessments will include patient reported measures of knee function, pain, fear of re-injury, fear of movement, physical activity. In addition, participants will complete a thigh muscle strength assessment, assessment of hopping performance, lower extremity biomechanical assessment, and a knee ultrasound assessment at each time point.
To apply for this position or to ask any questions, please contact Matt Harkey: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enhancing Immigrant Children’s Bilingual and Transnational Learning Through Virtual Reality
Faculty: Dr. Jungmin Kwon
The goal of this project is to examine how virtual reality (VR) can be used as a tool to enhance immigrant children’s bilingual and transnational learning. While there is growing attention on integrating VR into K-12 educational contexts, little has been discussed as to how VR can be used to empower students who are linguistically, culturally, and racially minoritized. Taking a social design experiment perspective, we are designing curriculum for the informal learning program that uses virtual reality (VR) as a tool to engage immigrant children in exploring diaspora and sharing their transnational and bilingual expertise. We seek to continue revising and improving the program by working with teachers and immigrant children. Ultimately, this study will examine how immigrant children engage with curricular experiences that foreground their linguistic and cultural expertise and use VR to represent their multilingual and transnational identities.
To apply for this position or to ask any questions, please contact Jungmin Kwon: email@example.com.
Beyond Lip Service: An Improvement Science Approach Towards Racial Equity in Teacher Education
Faculty: Dr. Terry Flennaugh
While there is considerable evidence to document the pervasive Whiteness in the teaching profession and the demographic imperative for increasing the number of teachers of Color, there have been relatively few systematic investigations of the racial equity climate in teacher preparation programs and the extent to which these programs prepare candidates to practice racial equity and social justice in P-12 classrooms. Four universities are attempting to transform their teacher preparation programs by forming a networked improvement community (NIC) focused on racial equity and social justice. This project will examine the strategies these universities have implemented to reduce systemic racism and document how they have sought to strengthen teacher preparation through a shared commitment to racial justice. This includes collecting data on the steps each institution is taking to attract and retain more faculty and teacher candidates of Color–and to transform their teacher preparation programs to provide environments that welcome and affirm diversity and promote systemic change.
To apply for this position or to ask any questions, please contact Terry Flennaugh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exploring Digital Tools to Support Students with Disabilities
Faculty: Dr. Emily Bouck
The project supports students to work on one of two projects that involve exploring digital tools to support students with disabilities. In Project 1, undergraduate researchers would work with Dr. Bouck and her graduate research assistant to teach and explore high school students with intellectual disability to use online simulations to learn independent life skills (e.g., using the microwave, using the self-checkout at a store). Undergraduate researchers would help to develop data collection materials, assist in data collection, and then analysis and dissemination of the results. For Project 2, undergraduate researchers would work with Dr. Bouck and her graduate research assistant to explore teaching mathematics to students with disabilities via virtual manipulatives. Undergraduate researchers would assist with developing data collection materials, data collection, analysis, and dissemination.
To apply for this position or to ask any questions, please contact Emily Bouck: email@example.com
Examining Variables that Affect Concussion Recovery
Faculty: Dr. Tracey Covassin
The purpose of this research is to document concussions in adolescents and collegiate populations. Concussion is an injury that results in a variety of physical, cognitive, emotional, balance and sleep impairments. In addition, physical activity following a concussion has become an important recovery measure instead of having them go in a quiet isolated room to recover. This study has two aims. Aim 1 includes MSU collegiate athletes who will be administered a baseline test prior to the sport season. Aim 2 examines a concussed participants recovery from the acute stage (i.e., within 72 hours) to full recovery (i.e., 30 days following medical clearance) either compared to their baseline or a control group. This study will examine cognition, vestibular/ocular function, concussion symptoms, sleep, anxiety, family environment, athletic identity, and health-related quality of life following their concussion as well as physical activity (via wearable sensors, gait test, and the HiMAT) during the time of their concussion to medical clearance.
To apply for this position or to ask any questions, please contact Tracey Covassin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dirt Track Racing Rollovers: Why are midgets and non-winged sprint cars more prone to rollovers and associate injuries?
Faculty: Dr. David Ferguson
Automobile racing is an expensive sport but a cost-effective form of motor racing is “Dirt Track Racing”, where drivers compete on a dirt surface instead of asphalt or concrete. In addition to the cost-effective surface and car there is less money spent on safety regulations. Consequently, it is a particularly dangerous form of motor racing. In order to improve safety in the sport commonalities in crashes must be established. To fill this gap in the literature a retrospective analysis of dirt track crashes will be performed by searching for news articles, injury database, and first-hand accounts regarding dirt track racing accidents. Crashes and injuries will be coded and tabulated. Multivariable statistical tests will be used to determine predictors of injuries. A potential outcome from this study will be to better inform stake holders in this form of motorsport.
To apply for this position or to ask any questions, please contact David Ferguson: email@example.com
Faculty Funded Research
College of Education faculty sometimes employ undergraduate researchers with funds they have received to conduct specific research projects. They may also include committed volunteers on their research team. If you are interested in the work of a faculty researcher, contact the faculty member directly. See “Approaching a Faculty Member about Your Research Interest” below.
A number of faculty in the Department of Kinesiology have research labs and include undergraduate researchers (paid or unpaid) as part of their research team. To learn more about the research conducted in each lab, visit KIN Research.
A small number of incoming freshmen are invited by the MSU Honors College to become Professorial Assistants. The Honors College pays Professorial Assistants a stipend to work with faculty members for approximately eight hours per week during the academic year. You may want to browse examples of PA research projects in the College of Education. It is sometimes possible for students who are not Professorial Assistants to engage in these projects as volunteers or paid research staff members. Interested students who are not PAs may contact faculty researchers directly to express their interest in a particular research project. Please see the tips below for approaching a faculty member about your research interests.
Resources for Finding Opportunities Outside the College of Education
You might begin by talking with your advisor and/or your college career consultant. You might also talk with instructors who teach classes that you enjoy. Visiting the Office of Undergraduate Research website (see below) and attending UURAF (see below) will also be enlightening.
Office of Undergraduate Research Website
The Office of Undergraduate Research website is a good source of ideas (for example, see First Steps, Student Spotlights and Undergraduate Research [UR] Videos). You will find links to research contacts in each of the MSU colleges as well as links to resources beyond MSU (for example, the Summer Research Opportunities Program). You can also visit Venture, MSU’s undergraduate research database, to search for research opportunities. For members of the Honors College, another source of information and ideas is the Honors College website.
University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF)
Attending or participating in UURAF is a Spartan experience that’s not to be missed! Students employed with funds from the Office of Undergraduate Research are expected to present their work at UURAF in the spring, but all undergraduate researchers are strongly encouraged to present their work. Recently, the presentation of a Kinesiology student in the College of Education received one of two grand prizes ($500), and the presentations of a number of other College of Education students received first place awards in their sections ($100). Congratulations to our undergraduate researchers!
Approaching a Faculty Member about Your Research Interest
Before contacting a faculty member about your research interest, you should do some preparation (similar to the way you would prepare for a job interview). Do an online search and learn more about the faculty member’s research agenda. If she or he has a website, that is an excellent place to begin. Read the abstracts (summaries) of journal articles the faculty member has published, or browse books or book chapters that she or he has written. If you have taken a class from the faculty member, think about what it was that sparked your interest in her or his research. Think carefully about the strengths and talents you would bring to the research team. Be prepared to talk about your previous work experiences. The work may be different, but the faculty member will want to know that you have been successful in the work place; that is, you showed up when and where you were scheduled to work, you got to work on time, you did what you were asked to do in a timely fashion, etc.
Funding an Undergraduate Research Experience
If you are unable to find a paid research position, the Office of Undergraduate Research has some suggestions for funding your work:
- Ask your faculty research mentor for ideas about professional organizations or agencies related to your work. Sometimes these organizations offer scholarships and grants to undergraduate students.
- Be prepared to “cobble” together your funding—you may not find one source that will provide all of your funding. However, you might find units at MSU and/or small grants that would pay for a portion of your expenses. Prepare a spreadsheet that outlines your anticipated expenses.
- The MSU Library Grant Site is a database with funding opportunities for individuals, such as financial aid or scholarships for students.
- Your research mentor and/or your college research contact may also be able to share resources for travel support if you are presenting your work at a conference.
You can combine an education abroad experience with a research experience to create a Research Abroad experience! The Office of Education Abroad offers a number of approved programs for research abroad. Even better, the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education (APUE) and the Office of Education Abroad offer scholarships to undergraduate students who wish to participate in an approved education abroad program that includes an undergraduate research component. Learn more!
Undergraduate Research in Kinesiology
With state-of-the-art laboratory spaces, participation in kinesiology research provides an opportunity for experiential learning and more active engagement in your education.