UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
In the College of Science and Mathematics at North Dakota State University we pride ourselves on the opportunities we offer our undergraduate majors to participate in research. NDSU is a nationally ranked research university with strong graduate programs, but it is also the ideal size for undergraduates to work alongside our faculty and graduate students in our laboratories or in the field.
Most people who become interested in science and mathematics do so because of the hands-on exploratory nature of these fields. The best way for students to learn these subjects and participate in the excitement of discovery is through undergraduate research. This is why undergraduate research has been identified as a high-impact learning practice, along with such other practices as first-year seminars, learning communities, service learning, and capstone experiences. Study after study demonstrates that being involved in undergraduate research provides much deeper and broader learning than traditional lectures and “cook-book” laboratory exercises.
Undergraduate research experiences greatly increase a student’s abilities to integrate multiple areas of knowledge, solve complex problems, work in teams, learn persistence, communicate in both written and oral formats, and think critically. And these skills are highly prized by employers. In January 2013, Hart Research Associates conducted an online survey involving 318 employers. Executives at private sector and non-profit organizations were asked about their priorities for college learning. A large proportion of the respondents said that the following practices “will help a lot/fair amount” to prepare graduates to succeed in the workplace: 1) acquire hands-on or direct experience with the methods of science (69%); 2) develop the skills to conduct research collaboratively (74%); 3) complete a project prior to graduation that demonstrates their acquired knowledge and skill (79%); and 4) develop research questions in their field and evidence-based analyses (83%). These are exactly the skills that are learned when students participate in substantial undergraduate research projects. So participation in undergraduate research is important not just for students destined for graduate school, but also for those who plan to join the workforce immediately upon graduation.
The links to the left provide access to additional information on opportunities for undergraduate research in our college including a list of faculty who are actively seeking undergraduate researchers and some stories about current or recent undergraduate research programs. I hope you enjoy reading about what our undergraduates are doing in terms of research and learning about opportunities that are available to our students.
 George D. Kuh (2008) High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.
 See the article: “It takes more than a major: Employer priorities for college learning and student success” in Liberal Education, v. 99, n. 2, p. 22-29 (2013) for more details.