Undergraduate Students: Take Advantage of Summer Research Opportunities

By Gail Hairston

Rachel Pagano studied snake fungal disease in Kentucky's ecosystem.

Without the added pressure of daily classes, summer research can be especially rewarding for University of Kentucky underclassmen.

The UK Office of Undergraduate Research has created a Summer Research Information Session to answer any questions that current freshmen, sophomores and juniors might have regarding undergraduate research programs, especially questions regarding financial support. There will be two identical presentations 4:30-5:30 p.m., Jan. 17. in Room 233 of Gatton College of Business and Economics, and 1:30-2:30 p.m., Jan. 24, at William T. Young Library UK Athletics Auditorium. It is not necessary to attend both meetings.

The goal of the summer research program is to engage students in investigative and creative activities and to invest in undergraduate research so that students may experience the epitome of engaged learning. Summer research applications open Jan. 22, and the deadline to apply is Feb. 26.

“Conducting research during the summer can be a transformative experience for undergraduate students, as they put their skills to the test in labs, in the fields, in library collections, in art studios and on the stage. The Office of Undergraduate Research encourages students to attend an information session to learn more about trying something new or taking their research experience to the next level with a Summer Research Fellowship,” said Jessica Jones-Bowman, student support program specialist for the UK Office of Undergraduate Research.

Last year, the Office of Undergraduate Research supported 39 Summer Research Fellowships, including:

  • 2017 Research Abroad Scholarship winner William Tan, a finance and accounting major, who studied finance and economics in Malaysia; 
  • 2017 Research Abroad Scholarship winner Enrique Ortiz, a music performance and music education major, who studied music education in France;
  • 2017 Sustainability Research Grant winner Erica Cherry-Ashton, a political science and writing, rhetoric and digital studies major, who studied Kentucky’s enforcement of environmental regulations on mining sites; and 
  • 2017 Summer Research Grant winner Rachel Pagano, a natural resources and environmental science major, who studied snake fungal disease in Kentucky’s ecosystem.

Leaders will explain the four different types of summer research fellowships, research options, funding and eligibility requirements for the following:

  • summer research and creativity grants (up to $2,000);
  • business and economics research grants (up to $2,000); 
  • sustainability summer grants (up to $2,500); and
  • undergraduate research abroad scholarships (up to $5,000), co-sponsored by Education Abroad & Exchanges.

Event leaders will address the application process, instruction in submitting an abstract and the required letter of recommendation from a faculty mentor, as well as the program requirements and how students can benefit the most from the summer research experience. Questions will be taken at the end of the presentations.

The sustainability summer research grant program has a new option this year — an intercollegiate opportunity to help undergraduate students connect with a faculty mentor at a different university with the assistance of UK faculty liaison Jack Schieffer.

Mia McDonald, a biology major, studied blood-flow restricted training with her UK Summer Research Fellowship mentor, Brian Noehren, associate professor in the Division of Physical Therapy.

“This summer project has been extremely insightful and transformative to my interest in academic research,” McDonald said. “Conducting research this summer has provided the opportunity to experience the scientific method in action, while expanding my critical thinking and planning skills. As an aspiring physician, watching patients recover from orthopedic injuries and improve their functional abilities has been extremely rewarding. I feel that research has strengthened my scientific background and prepared me for my future career. ”


UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue


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