eDiscovery Connects Students to Research Opportunities

September 17, 2009

A new online tool is reinforcing the University of Houston’s commitment to quality research and student success.

This fall, UH’s Office of Undergraduate Discovery Programs (OUDP) introduced eDISCOVERY, a new Web portal that connects undergraduate students with research opportunities and mentors. It can be accessed at http://www.uh.edu/discovery/eDISCOVERY.html

The site is now available for all UH faculty and staff to post university-related research project descriptions, as well as the student skills required for these projects. Members of Houston’s professional community can also register with eDISCOVERY to solicit assistance for off-campus research. Both paid and non-paid projects can be posted on eDiscovery.

“Through focus groups, we learned that students are eager to apply their talents to research projects but are challenged by not knowing where to find such opportunities,” said Veronique Tran, director of OUDP. “eDISCOVERY contains postings by research mentors who are seeking student support. It’s the perfect tool for students to learn about the rich research opportunities on campus and in the community.”

Among the staff research mentors seeking student assistance is Katherine Lopez, assistant curator of education at Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of UH.  She currently is seeking a curatorial intern to assist with researching exhibition artists and help produce biographic and bibliographic information to be included in exhibition catalogues.

Lopez credited eDISCOVERY with helping students learn about the vast opportunities available to them, as well as helping research mentors locate students with sufficient qualifications.

“The university is constantly growing its commitment to undergraduate research, but often the most difficult aspect for organizations offering research opportunities is finding the right student for the position,” she said. “This process should undoubtedly help better match the right student with the right position.”

The site also will be helpful in partnering students and faculty from different disciplines.  Haluk Ogmen directs the Center for Neuro-Engineering and Cognitive Science, which involves components from engineering, computer science, psychology and neurosciences. Through eDiscovery, he is able to reach out to students from outside of his own college and recruit appropriate research assistants.

“Research is increasingly becoming both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary,” he said.  “Psychology students would typically not seek research opportunities in engineering.  I think that a key advantage of this tool is that students will be able to explore available research opportunities in areas outside their department that they did not know existed on campus.”

While faculty and staff members will no doubt benefit from eDISCOVERY, the resource will also will impact the city of Houston. Companies, non-profit institutions, arts groups, health centers and other organizations will ultimately take advantage of its benefits. As students take their talents from the campus into the community, Houstonians become more aware of the quality of students produced by UH. Students also benefit by becoming visible to key decision makers and transforming their research experiences into potential careers.

“Community engagement is among the university’s priorities,” said John Antel, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “eDISCOVERY is an excellent resource for strengthening the bond between UH and Houston. The university has a wealth of student talent that can provide assistance to leaders in energy, health, arts and other industries. Students can gain unique and valuable insights from participating in professional real world endeavors. I am looking forward to hearing the student success stories that will emerge from these collaborations.”

eDISCOVERY is part of The Learning through Discovery Initiative, which was started in fall 2008 as the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). As part of its reaffirmation of accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UH developed a QEP centered on enhancing student learning. To learn more about other programs and resources of the Learning through Discovery Initiative, visit http://www.uh.edu/discovery/.

Mike Emery