Berkeley undergraduates show off their research at UC Day in
Sacramento, March 13 & 14
Robert Sanders, Public Affairs
The University of California, Berkeley's research prowess is
recognized around the world, but few realize that it's not only
the faculty and graduate students who contribute. Undergraduates
are playing an increasing role, too.
for undergraduates have always been there - many current faculty
first whetted their appetites for research while undergraduates
- but the campus has instituted programs that encourage more
students to participate.
a result, these students derive much more from the Berkeley
have much more contact with professors," said Paul Frank,
a senior environmental science major in the College of Letters
& Science who is working on a project with environmental
engineering professor Alexander Horne. "Most of my friends
only get to hear professors lecture or maybe take a small class
is one of 16 undergraduates from eight UC campuses traveling
to Sacramento today and Tuesday (March 13 and 14) for "UC
Day in Sacramento," an annual event organized for legislators
by the Alumni Associations of the University of California.
This year UC alumni and friends will focus on "A Century
of Discovery," highlighting the educational and research
advances that have contributed to the state's economy and quality
a Tuesday morning breakfast, several of the UC undergraduates
and their faculty advisors will discuss how student research
opportunities enrich undergraduate research. All the students
will present posters about their research.
for example, is working with Horne to find the best way to encourage
bacteria to gobble up metal waste in acid mine runoff. Toxic
runoff is a serious problem in the Sierra, and Frank has been
feeding bottles of the microbes different nutrients to see which
best help them clean up the pollution.
never would have discovered how much I like research if I hadn't
gotten involved in this research project," Frank said.
Frank is conducting research required by his environmental science
major, many UC Berkeley undergraduates get involved on their
own, often by just walking into a professor's lab or office
and asking to help.
the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, one quarter
of the 1,200 majors participate in research.
the papers I've published in the last 10 to 15 years have had
undergraduates as coauthors," said Professor Gary Firestone,
head of the department's Undergraduate Affairs Committee. "They
work in my lab alongside graduate students as a big team."
Full, professor of integrative biology, is so proud of the 60-plus
undergrads who have worked with him over the past 14 years that
he has posted their names, publications and awards on a Web
page subtitled, "Cal students are the best!"
the tradition of undergraduate research reaches back a long
way in the sciences, it has been less common in the humanities.
That is changing with the growth of a campus-wide program to
match faculty with undergraduates in research projects across
the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP), it began
in 1991 and this semester hooked up 150 faculty with 450 students.
Mostly juniors and seniors, the students are at a point in their
college careers where they want to try research to see if they
undergraduates come in at the beginning of a project and get
to see how projects develop," said Terry Strathman, director
of the Office of Undergraduate Research. "They come away
with an idea of the dedication required, and often an understanding
that part of being a scholar or scientist is knowing how to
deal with and learn from frustration and failure."
Renate Holub, director of Interdisciplinary Studies, enjoys
working with undergraduates so much she sometimes has had 15
working with her in a semester.
my project, undergraduates work much better than graduate students,
who often have their own projects," said Holub, who has
been working through URAP for five years. "I've built a
group over the past few years that is extremely helpful to me
is interested in the European Union, particularly the changes
occurring as other ethnic groups, such as the Turks, enter the
traditionally uniform cultures of Europe. She and her students
search for and review commentary by European intellectuals and
political leaders about the rise of a multicultural Europe.
campus is so diverse and the students have such different backgrounds,
they are invaluable to my work on multicultural Europe,"
Holub said. "From my perspective, where URAP is fantastic
is we get to know the students quite well, which is different
from teaching. This helps us to better support them with letters
of recommendation in the future. And without URAP, it would
be harder to find the appropriate students to work with in a
Berkeley graduate Athena Trakadas took advantage of URAP during
both her junior and senior years, working on two separate archaeology
projects. Her archival work with classics professor Stephen
Miller, who has been excavating for 29 years at the site of
the ancient Panhellenic Games in Nemea, Greece, gave her the
opportunity to travel to Greece at the end of her senior year.
on this project exposed me to a different level of research,
experience that I didn't get from my courses," Trakadas
said. "I learned how to put everything together: how to
archive, how to conduct more involved research, how to properly
document material for publication - basically what it means
to be a professional archaeologist."
graduation in 1997 she went to Texas A&M for an MA in nautical
archaeology and is back again working temporarily in Miller's
laboratory and contemplating a PhD.
many of those who participate end up continuing in the research
realm, they don't necessarily remain in academia. Firestone
says many of his students have gone on to medical school or
biotechnology firms. Holub finds many of her students going
abroad to experience the new, multicultural Europe, then enrolling
in graduate school.
learn leadership skills in a research environment and carry
away a new, collaborative approach to research, learning and
study," she said.
participating in URAP not only get course credits, but a small
stipend, too, if they continue during the summer. Nevertheless,
the greatest value to the student may be the richness research
gives to their four-year tenure at Cal.
the labs or research groups become a home, a place on campus
where students feel they are connected," Strathman said.
welcomes them with open arms.
add to the research atmosphere on campus - they're enthusiastic,
high energy, creative and really interesting people," he
said. "It's a real plus to have them in the lab."