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30+ Must-Know Campus Research Resources

30+ Must-Know Campus Research Resources

We're exactly half a year away from the College's biggest undergraduate research showcase event. On April 12, 2017, bright student scientists from across Natural Sciences will present original research at the 2017 Undergraduate Research Forum. The best and most innovative of these scientific explorations will be recognized with awards sponsored by the university, faculty, alumni and industry.

Janelle Korf presents her work at the 2016 Undergraduate Research Forum. Korf won the CNS Award for Excellence in Biological Sciences Research.

To help students plan to participate in this and other research events, we have rounded up resources available in the college and beyond for supporting scientific inquiry.

Getting Started

Before you can present your research, first you have to find the right thing to research and begin conducting all the necessary data-gathering, analysis, experiments and computations.

How do you get started doing your own research?

A good place to begin is the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES), which has compiled a treasure trove of CNS-specific information on research opportunities, funding, summer programs and more. They even have Walk-in Advising for Undergraduate Research to help you get oriented.

Based on the model of the Freshman Research Initiative, the Accelerated Research Initiative (ARI) provides sophomores, juniors and transfer students with a launch pad to get started on research. ARI has two entry points: ARI Spring Start and ARI Summer Start. The Spring Start program application opens on October 13th.

If you want to find UT faculty who are accepting student researchers in your favorite topic check out EUREKA! from the School of Undergraduate Studies. The Office for Undergraduate Research also hosts weekly information sessions to help you get started with undergraduate research.

Coming up in November, the Summer Opportunities Workshop will be held on Friday the 11th at 3 p.m. and will give you information on finding and getting into summer research programs.

You can also subscribe to the CNS Undergraduate Research Mailing List and the Office of Undergraduate Research Mailing list to receive the latest information about research opportunities.

The Foundry's 3D printer in action.

Getting Stuff

Once you've found your research opportunity, it's time to get busy doing research, but that can require money and equipment. Often your research lab will have the necessary supplies, but what if you need something more?

Many stipends and fellowships are designed to support research. Check out CNS Research Funding Resources, various UT Funding Resources and Resources Beyond the 40 Acres.

As for equipment, in the months ahead the new Foundry maker space in the Fine Arts Library will have a lot to offer: rent a GoPro to document fieldwork, create specially designed equipment or prototypes with the 3D printer, or etch a custom circuit board with the 2D router.

Analyze This

Before, during and after your experiments, you will need skills and tools to analyze your findings.

A new resource from the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences can take much of the guesswork out of analyzing your data. Statistics Online Support (SOS) uses a series of questions to determine the most appropriate analytical technique for your data, and then shows you how to do the calculations. Designed and built by SDS lecturers Kristin Harvey and Sally Amen, SOS provides an interactive, decision-tree-based site that guides users to the appropriate statistical technique and provides detailed examples alongside embedded tutorial videos. The videos show how to conduct the analysis by hand calculation or using the software packages R and Excel. Undergraduates in Freshman Research Initiative and Scientific Inquiry Across the Disciplines signature courses, as well as graduate students working on journal article submissions or dissertations, can use SOS to boost the quality of their quantitative analyses, as this article about the tool notes.

Kristin Harvey, co-designer of Statistics Online Support, assists students in her Data Analysis for Health Sciences course.

SDS is also home to several other statistical resources. The Statistical Consulting Group offers free help on everything from designing an experiment to analysis to interpretation to writing up results. SDS Short Courses are three hour classes that focus on software, such as R, or on different areas of statistics and cost $30 per person. If you really want to immerse yourself in statistics, the Summer Statistics Institute in May offers intensive four-day workshops, at a discount to students, on diverse topics ranging from introductory data sciences to advanced statistics.

Prepare to Present

If you need extra help with understanding how to crunch data or delve into scientific questions related to your research, the PCL STEM Study Center has drop-in tutoring in biology, chemistry and calculus.

When it comes time to write-up your findings, you also can find assistance at the University Writing Center. Not only can writing coaches there help with prose and clarity, but some consultants are trained in technical writing, too.

Get Your Science On

Sometimes you need to bounce ideas off of someone who shares your passion for the subject matter.

Look into joining one of the many student organizations associated with the college. These groups provide opportunities to meet others, get involved and learn more about specific fields.

One particular group that is devoted to fostering student research is the Science Undergraduate Research Group (SURGe). They meet weekly; no experience is required.

You can also attend conferences in your field of choice to meet like-minded researchers from around the globe. Sometimes you can even find financial support for travel to these conferences.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Presenting your research at the URF involves more than hanging up a poster and hoping for the best. You have to be able to discuss your work clearly with both scientists and laypeople. There are a number of resources that can help.

In March, a workshop called Posters, Presentations and Pizza: How to Prepare for the Undergraduate Research Forum will be held where past student participants will teach you everything you need to know about presenting your research at the forum.

The aspect of speaking in public is the scariest part for many. UT Sciences Toastmasters helps science-y types conquer these fears. The group will be holding an open house on Friday, October 14. Meanwhile, student speech consultants at the Sanger Learning Center also can help curb this fear and help you perfect your public speaking skills.

Several more events are worth putting on your calendar. The Texas Student Research Showdown challenges you to explain why your research is relevant, while Science in Plain English tests your ability to describe your research to non-academics in three minutes using only words. (While it's too late to sign on to participate in either contest this year, you can review videos and attend the Oct. 19 Science in Plain English event to get a sense for how winning researchers communicate.) On Nov. 10, Science in the Public Square will invite a panel of College of Natural Sciences outreach experts and alumni to discuss the ins and outs of communicating science effectively.

Post It

Of course, you will need the aforementioned poster for the forum. Poster printing is free for forum participants, but what if you miss your scheduled slot? For a fee you can also print your poster using Library Copier Services in PCL and through the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

Beyond the URF

What if you—or your research—won't be at this year's forum? Well, other opportunities exist to get out the word.

Later in April, the Undergraduate Studies Office will host Research Week, with more chances to learn about research and share it with others.

If your focus is in the biological sciences, try out the new Fall Undergrad Research Symposium (FURS), which is run by the Molecular Biosciences Student Association. FURS just finished its second year and even attracted participants from Rice and Texas Southern University this fall.

Finally, you can always publish your research. Over the years, 200 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals have been written by Natural Sciences students in the Freshman Research Initiative alone! Many journals accept undergraduate research. You might opt to seek out the Texas Undergraduate Research Journal (URJ), which exists especially for this purpose. Produced and edited by UT Austin undergraduate students, the URJ is published every spring and features work from a variety of disciplines.

Now that you have the tools, go forth and do great science.

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Friday, 22 September 2017

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