Undergraduate Research Fellow Gianna Patchett
Harlie Hutchinson presenting at Research on Capitol Hill
Audience at Ignite
Fall Undergraduate Research Poster Session

Strategic goal 3: Enhance USU’s undergraduate research program


This past year our efforts in USU’s first-year experience (USU Connections) was significantly expanded in an effort to broaden and encourage greater participation in undergraduate research. Connections reaches a significant majority of Logan-campus incoming freshmen, and last year, students received UR-related materials as a part of their welcome packet, an invitation (using the Aggie Passport system) to the Fall Undergraduate Research Orientation and fall poster-symposium. Scott Bates also presented to all four sections of Honors Connections on the value of undergraduate research and how to get involved. Further, Bates presented a brief orientation of undergraduate research to hundreds of Connections students across the four-day event. In addition, the Division of Graduate and Undergraduate Research participated in Day on the Quad in an effort to publicize the orientation.

The Fall Undergraduate Research Orientation was held on September 11, 2015. Bates provided an introduction to undergraduate research, guidance on “how to get involved,” and information about programming (URCO, Research on Capitol Hill). Directly after the orientation, a poster session was held outside on a major campus thoroughfare in an effort to continue to capture attention of new and current students.

The division has also spent resources and supported a number of college, department, and program-level undergraduate research presentation opportunities, including: Hansen Life Science Retreat, the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium (led by Dr. Travis Dorsch, FCHD), the Spring Runoff Conference, the LPSC Annual Spring Student Research Symposium, the Sagebrush Ecosystems Convention, the research day in the Caine College of the Arts, and the Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Science annual student research symposium.

Each of these strategies were designed to encourage greater participation in undergraduate research.

Scholars’ Day

For the second year, RGS participated in a refocused Scholars’ Day during May, in coordination with the Honors program and Admissions, with a focus on recruiting high ability high school juniors, as opposed to committed seniors after scholarship and application deadlines.

This year, selected student Ignite speakers were asked to present their talks in front of the audience of high-ability high-school juniors and many of their parents. The high-school students were then provided the opportunity to explore campus research opportunities from all ends of campus, from the Animal Diagnostic Lab, to ASSERT—the program that supports children with autism spectrum disorder and their families—to the spider-silk lab, to a session on the philosophical underlyings of Star Wars.

Undergraduate Research Fellows

Finally, the undergraduate research program and the Honors program continued to work together to identify high-achieving students for the Undergraduate Research Fellows program. This year, all students who applied for Honors were reviewed for the Undergraduate Research Fellows program. The result was a much more diverse incoming class of Undergraduate Research Fellows. In addition, for the first time, sophomore students were invited into the Undergraduate Research Fellows program. The first cohort of ten sophomores was selected in June and will begin as Research Fellows in fall 2016.

Changes to URCO policies

The requirements for URCO remain the same: students must submit a proposal, attend budget training session, and present the results of their grant at a university-sponsored or professional conference.

This year, 75 proposals were submitted for funding in FY16, and 53 were awarded. The table below shows rates for colleges and departments.

28 faculty reviewers and 9 doctoral student reviewers participated in the review process, and a total of $64,313 was awarded (these dollars were matched with $36,063 of other department funds).

This year brought a few changes as to the centerpiece of the undergraduate research and creative opportunities grant program. First, a summer deadline was established. The new, June 15, deadline is for students who are interested in being funded during the fall semester. The October 15 deadline remains for students who wish to be funded in the spring, and the February 15 deadline remains for students who wish to be funded in the summer.

The nature of the award has also shifted. The total award available remains $2000 (this includes a $750 match from another University source). $1000 of this award is in the form of a scholarship, and the remaining $1000 is for equipment, supplies and research related travel. Groups of students, too, can be awarded scholarships (although the amount is reduced for groups).

Undergraduate travel funding

In January of 2016, RGS launched a new program designed to support undergraduate researchers. The RGS Undergraduate Student Travel Award promotes student involvement in their disciplines by partially funding travel costs associated with professional presentations at regional, national and international conferences. The ongoing program has a budget of $20,000. Allocation decisions are made on a first-come/first-served basis.

In FY16, a total of 54 awards were made (60 requests were submitted) and the total dollars distributed was $13,550. Students from all 8 colleges (and 20 departments) participated in the program. Students traveled to regional, national and international conferences.

Fifty-four students attended conferences, including:

  • National Conference on Undergraduate Research
  • Experimental Biology
  • American Geophysical Union
  • 37th Annual Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference
  • Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE)
  • Society for the Quantitative Analyses of Behavior
  • Cognitive Neuroscience Society
  • International Symposium on Society and Resource Management


Research on Capitol Hill

Utah Research on Capitol Hill is a collaboration with the University of Utah to highlight to best of the undergraduate research from Utah’s state research institutions. On January 26, 2016, 50 students, 25 from the University of Utah and 25 from Utah State University presented their research to the state legislator.

This year, students were trained on poster design (a process that included basic skills and an iterative feedback process), as well as scholarly communication. Experts in university/governmental relations provided an hour-long training session on science communication skills, given the audience, which included the general public, Utah legislators, staff and the news media.

Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research

Based on the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research celebrates academic, professional and personal achievements resulting from undergraduate research projects or creative endeavors across disciplines. In 2016, USU had 42 undergraduate students give presentation.

URF Boot Camp

High-ability students in the Undergraduate Research Fellowships program were required to attend a four-hour “boot camp” session where they learned about identifying and getting involved in undergraduate research. Undergraduate Research Fellows are required to be “vigorously involved in undergraduate research,” and the boot camp was the training session designed to facilitate their early engagement.

Undergraduate Research Guidebook

The Undergraduate Research Guidebook was expanded in an effort to provide additional training to students. new expanded sections on identifying undergraduate research opportunities, responsible conduct of research, and safety were written to provide a base document for undergraduate researchers and their faculty mentors.

Graduate Student Workshops

Advanced undergraduate researchers were also invited to participate in the Graduate Training Series (GrTS), as well as the RGS-funded graduate student grant writing seminar called “Getting Started as a Successful Proposal Writer.” Those opportunities provided advanced students access to best practices in scholarly writing, communication, and research skills.

Student Research Symposium

Student Research Symposium (SRS) gives undergraduate researchers the opportunity to present their research in a conference-like setting. As part of the SRS preparation materials, students have access to a series of training videos that coach them on best practices in formatting posters and slides for conference presentations.  Additionally, students can submit their work to the Project Management and Communications team prior to SRS to be evaluated for an “Outstanding Communicator” badge. Built into the symposium are both faculty and peer evaluations, to which the standard of measure is provided prior to the event.


Also, as part of Research Week, students continue to receive training on how to effectively present their undergraduate (and graduate) research at Ignite, a speaking series designed to showcase student research interests in an engaging way. Attendance at this event continued to grow in 201, with nine total speakers who received more than three months of intensive training.

New this year, four Ignite student presenters were selected to give their talks at the spring 2016 Sunrise Session in Salt Lake, as well as at the Scholars’ Day program for high school students.