The Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards is housed in the Honors College and administers a large number of undergraduate research programs. Two of them, the Houston Early Research Experience (HERE) and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) programs, operate, in part, thanks to support from the Division of Research as well as the Provost’s Office.
Undergraduate research is very important and helps students determine their educational paths and future careers. For instance, one of the HERE students said, “I learned more about the research process: how to pick a topic, find reputable sources and how to write a research proposal … my network has expanded, and I learned that the path to any career I aspire to does not have to be straightforward.”
Stuart Long, associate dean of undergraduate research, expressed his gratitude for these funds and said: “Thanks to the support of the Division of Research and other campus partners, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards has maintained the number of students participating in faculty-mentored research in the HERE and SURF programs, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Students from all colleges at UH can apply for both the SURF and HERE programs.
HERE is a program that encourages research early in the undergraduate students’ academic careers. There is a different Houston theme each year for the projects done by the faculty-mentored student groups, and in 2022 the emphasis will be on “Energy.” Students will learn about sustainability and other energy-related topics.
SURF is a full-time summer program partially funded by the DOR with $4,000 stipends for each student. Students are paired with a faculty mentor to conduct a research project, and outside speakers and seminars contribute to making this program a success. The program is multidisciplinary, and this past year SURF students came from 12 different colleges—and although the majority of the students were from Engineering, NSM and CLASS, other colleges, including ones that only confer graduate degrees (such as Optometry and Pharmacy) also had participants working with their faculty.
Many of the supported students will participate in Undergraduate Research Day in April when approximately 300 posters highlighting work from around campus will be presented to the entire University community.
Amr Elnashai, FREng, Vice President/Vice Chancellor for Research and Technology Transfer, said: “Throughout my own career, I have witnessed the transformative effect of research experiences that undergraduate students go through. Working on an open-ended challenge -- the solution of which is not in any book or lecture notes -- unleashes a student’s investigative talent. The Division of Research is delighted to invest in our undergraduate students, in order to prepare them for successful careers in service of society.” Nearly $144,000 had been allocated for undergraduate research in 2021.