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A student and mentor engage wearing masks in the physical-distancing environment.

Mentored research persists in the adapted learning environment

By Gabs James

Though things look different now, many College of Science undergraduate students continue to do mentored research with engaged faculty in the physical-distancing environment. College life and undergraduate research persist at OSU during the COVID-19 pandemic – even though it’s not “business as usual.”

The Lubchenco/Menge Lab has found a safe way to do marine ecology while socially distant, even though some work is not possible do to remotely. With the help of Sarah Gravem—this year’s Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research by a Graduate Student or Post-doc Award winner—and faculty research assistant Brittany Poirson, the team has devised multiple projects that include sample collection, identification, data entry and maintaining a website about marine disease response.

Many physics students are also benefiting from the ability to do remote research. Associate professor David Roundy explained that his physics students “do computational research, so it’s pretty easy to work online. We meet using Zoom and students either SSH (a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network) into my group computers or just run simulations on their own computer.” Mathematicians like Vrushali Bokil, professor of mathematics, also is fostering connections and continues to provide meaningful research opportunities for her students.

Biophysicist Maria Clara Franco and her students are taking advantage of this time to analyze and organize data, develop protocols, read the literature and present at remote lab meetings. “The students are compiling all of their results in a PowerPoint document to present, analyzing the data they have collected, making figures with that data and reading assigned papers,” Franco said.

Whether it is through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) or URSA Engage, College of Science faculty continue to engage with undergraduate researchers, aiding in their wellbeing and overall success.

“Undergraduate research experiences promote student engagement in ways that traditional classroom instruction cannot,” said Sophie Pierszalowski, associate director of Undergraduate Research who oversees the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and the Arts (Office of URSA). “While some feel that the quality and availability of these experiences is threatened by the transition to remote teaching and learning during the global pandemic, we are seeing inspiring cases across campus where faculty mentors are continuing to provide students with high-impact research experiences.”

Faculty and graduate teaching assistants who are wondering how to get involved as an undergraduate research mentor this year should submit a summary to participate in the campus-wide URSA Engage Program. Interested faculty can submit a mentor summary form. The deadline to sign up is in October each year. Those who are specifically interested in mentoring students from underrepresented backgrounds can also check out the STEM Leaders program.

Read more stories about: faculty and staff, research