Undergraduate Research Program Grows Despite Pandemic
COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way people experience their education. Over the summer of 2020, Kent State University’s eight-week Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program transitioned to a completely remote environment, and the results were surprising.
“The number of undergraduates who participated in the workshop actually increased for the 2020 program,” said Ann Gosky, director of the Office of Student Research in the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs. The nature of this new format gave students a more flexible option and a unique opportunity to be a part of an online research experience.
Because location was no longer an issue, student participation increased. Gosky said this gave students with other commitments an opportunity to be a part of something very valuable to their college education.
In 2019, 61 students participated in SURE; in 2020 participation increased to 77 undergraduates. The breadth of areas represented in the program is demonstrated by the fact that students participating came from 37 different majors.
From fine arts to aeronautics, students in diverse fields were able to grow their critical thinking, work directly with experienced faculty and gain valuable understanding preparing them for graduate school or employment
“Research is for everyone,” Gosky said. “Each line of study requires research and exploration for its progression.”
The 2020 program occurred in June and July, and students spent 20-40 hours working on their research projects one-on-one with faculty members.
While SURE is limited to eight-weeks, the majority of SURE fellows continue in research after the program’s conclusion.
SURE’s culmination involves opportunities for students to present their research to a panel of judges during their Three-Minute Presentations.
Among last year’s winners were journalism major Nicholas Lilly and psychology major Hayley Shasteen, both of whom felt the program was an extremely valuable and productive experience.
“I learned valuable skills like how to properly index and organize large volumes of research content and how to build a WordPress website,” Lilly said. The fact that students receive a stipend was also a noted benefit.
“This was really beneficial since I lost my job when the pandemic struck,” Lilly added .
“Despite being remote, I was still able to engage in meaningful research with my faculty mentor and was able to make connections with other students as well,” Shasteen said
Gosky noted that the transition to a remote environment was easily achievable. However, if it weren’t for the students’ and faculty’s passion and hard work, this wouldn’t have been possible,” Gosky added . “I anticipate that the trend of increased participation will continue.”