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Academics: Research Programs

Biology

Real-World Research Benefits

"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. " – Zora Neale Hurston

While undergraduate research programs traditionally have centered on STEM fields, studies show that research experiences help improve retention, academic success, and increase interest in pursuit of a graduate education among students in all disciplines.

According to a report by the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, students who engage in undergraduate research enhance intellectual skills such as inquiry and analysis, as well as show improvement in reading and understanding primary literature, interpreting data, written and oral communication, collaboration, career clarification and preparation.

“In today’s job market, employers are seeking graduates who have critical thinking skills, the ability to analyze data and synthesize information and creatively solve problems,” said Dolores Bradley Brennan, Ph.D., vice provost for faculty

Chemistry Lab at Spelman

Research Prepares Students for Bright Futures

“In today’s job market, employers are seeking graduates who have critical thinking skills, the ability to analyze data and synthesize information and creatively solve problems,” said Dolores Bradley Brennan, Ph.D., interim vice provost, director of Undergraduate Research and professor of psychology.

“Employers look for students who have done research because they know how to think critically and know how to analyze problems, know how to write and interpret information,” she said. “They are less concerned with the major but more interested in what you can do. They know that the more research experience you have the stronger your skills.”

To ensure Spelman students are competitive in the 21st-century global economy, the College launched the Undergraduate Research Initiative in 2011 to transform the College curriculum within each major to give every Spelman student the opportunity to have a capstone research experience in their major.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, about 40 percent of academic departments required a capstone experience. By 2015, 70 percent of departments, representing the majority of academic majors, were piloting courses associated with the Undergraduate Research Initiative. Many departments now require a senior thesis.

“It was our goal that the majority of new students entering in the fall of 2015 would have an undergraduate research experience by the time they graduated, and we are well on our way to meeting that goal,” Dr. Bradley Brennan said. “That said, Spelman tries to get them involved in research early. We are not only doing content but skill development and how to apply what they have learned in a major.”

 As a result, students have opportunities to conduct research year-round and present their findings at annual campus events such as Research Day and the Toni Cade Bambara Scholar-Activism Conference, as well as at national and international conferences. There’s also been an increase in the number of summer and academic research internships for students in STEM, the social sciences, humanities and the arts.

The emphasis on undergraduate research and innovation has also spurred new student-created projects, such as “Continuum: An Undergraduate Research Journal,” which published its first issue in March. The journal was founded and produced by students in the College’s Honors Program as a way of publishing and promoting the intellectual and creative work of women of African descent.

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Spelman Messenger Fall 2017