What is research?
Research is not just pipetting in a laboratory. URSA is committed to expanding the traditional definition of undergraduate research on campus. Our definition? Finding something you are passionate about, learning about it, and contributing something new to it--whether that be a work of art, a written work, or an experiment. Research is fundamentally a creative pursuit of knowledge, something that is available for anyone to do - in any discipline, at any age, and any level of experience. If you can find a question that lacks an answer, you have all you need to pursue a research project.
Who can research?
We encourage students to start research as early as they can, preferably as freshmen. Everyone can research! Research is for anyone who finds a topic interesting enough to pursue more deeply. Whether this manifests itself as an art project, a historical analysis, or a scientific investigation, research is fundamental to the development of new ideas and progress. Never be deterred by inexperience or the perception that you don't know enough.
Why should I research?
URSA strongly believes that undergraduate research is a transformative experience, critical to making the undergraduate college experience worthwhile. It's a great way to explore your interests, figure out if you really want to do what you think you want to do, develop personal relationships with your professors, and make a big school feel smaller. Research is the most powerful educational tool available to college students. In the same sense that immersion is the most powerful way to learn a language, deeply pursuing topics that interest you is the best way to learn about these topics. Moreover, research, while often collaborative, is a deeply personal experience that teaches one how to think, how to learn, and how to create. Finally, research reflects extremely positively on an individual when applying to jobs, professional schools, or scholarships. Often, it's even necessary.
How do I start?
Every department at UT is different, with different ways of getting students into and performing research. Start by talking to your professors in the classes you enjoy. Figure out what you're interested in by reading about what's going on in your field and seeing what captures your attention the most. Then, head online to your department's website, where faculty are listed with research profiles. If someone matches up with your interests, send them a short email with your name, major, any relevant experience you have, and a request to meet up with them to discuss working with them on their research. And don't be discouraged if they don't respond! Email enough people and, odds are, someone will answer. It just might take a few tries.
You can find many helpful resources and guides on our Resources page.
The Undergraduate Research Students' Association was founded in 2010 as a student organization dedicated to expanding access to undergraduate research at the University of Tennessee. Its goals are to foster an undergraduate research community and culture at UT, to help connect students and faculty in undergraduate research positions, and to promote undergraduate research in general. The following presentation is from our Fall 2014 meeting and is also available as a .pdf.
To join URSA, click here.