Linda Columbus / Chemistry
A B.S. undergraduate chemistry degree at UVA requires undergraduate research, which provides critical thinking, knowledge, and experience in scientific discovery and design that is rarely encountered in a classroom environment. Each semester between 50 and 70 undergraduates register for research credit and additional students conduct research and do not enroll for research credit. Conducting the research is only part of the experience. Each student writes a report at the end of the semester; however, few have the chance to have extensive intellectual discussions about their research or orally present their research to others. Verbal communication is a very important aspect of research and typically undergraduates do not have opportunities to develop these skills.
My "dream idea" is to have an undergraduate scientific research lunch series. There are 150 students (mostly third years) in my Biological Chemistry I course in the Fall. Of these, approximately fifty are involved in research (some registered through the Biology Department). In order to better understand the students, I have the students fill out information cards at the beginning of the semester. Two of the questions will be "Are you registered for independent research?" and "With whom do you conduct this research?". From this research active subgroup, I will choose 12 students to participate in a lunch seminar series. I will select the students to provide the group diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, and scientific topics. We will meet once a week for six weeks towards the end of the semester when students will likely have more material to present and knowledge gained from the course. Each week, two students will present a 20 minute talk on their research. After each we will have 10 to 15 minutes of discussion and questions.
In addition to these twelve students, I have four undergraduates (two rising second years and two rising fourth years) working in my laboratory that will participate. I have worked with them over the last year and feel confident they can aid in leading the questions and discussions after each talk.
In addition to stimulating the students' interest in scientific research, my hope is that the undergraduates will develop confidence, critical thinking and communication skills useful in their future careers.
UVA Catered Lunches:~$1600
Final UVA Catered Dinner: ~$680
UVA Bookstore Gift Certificate for Participation: $720
I have designed the series to end with a final dinner for the participants at which the presenting students will receive a $60 gift certificate to the UVA bookstore.