MUSER- Enhancing the Process of Linking Students to Research

January 3, 2022
Research Archives

Published in our 2015-2016 issue.

Research is the most effective way college students can apply the knowledge learned in courses and discover new principles to further augment, modify, and link a multitude of fields. Also, research offers the opportunity to connect with and receive the valuable guidance and mentorship of postdocs, graduate students, and principal investigators. However, finding research opportunities to truly make an impact in a particular field tends to be a difficult process. In many cases, it is hard to know what exact skills are needed and what specific roles the student may undertake in the research setting. To facilitate this strenuous process, an online program called Matching Undergraduates to Science and Engineering Research (MUSER) was created at Duke University during the spring of 2015 and began its first cycle in the fall of 2015. The program, originally called Connecting Undergraduates to Biology Research (CUBR), expanded from just Biology to include all the major disciplines in science and engineering.

Created through the collaboration of Dr. Sheila Patek, a Professor of the Biology Department; Dr. Nyote Calixte, Director of Academic Engagement for the Natural and Quantitative Sciences; and Quang Nguyen, an undergraduate Biology major, the MUSER website offers a list of specific projects alongside skills and coursework requested by researchers so that students can easily find research opportunities instead of sending a series of emails to different professors. Each of the founders had immense prior experience with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and wanted to provide a streamlined system through which students of all experiences and interests can gain access to available projects at Duke. This program runs in three cycles each year: one in the start of the fall for projects throughout the fall semester, one towards the end of the fall semester for spring projects, and one in the spring for projects in the following fall. Students can apply to a maximum of three projects per cycle. The projects can be listed in the program by principal investigators, postdocs, and graduate students. Sample projects currently range from RNA viruses and Plasmodium proteins to ecology and cognitive neuroscience.

Through this new service, more undergraduates can get a diverse view of the groundbreaking research done on Duke’s campus and how they can make an impact in such processes. At the same time, graduate students and PIs can have more involvement and help from college students in conducting, overseeing, refining, and critiquing their research.  Most importantly, this service reduces the anxiety students may have in trying to find a niche for their skills. By gaining confidence in taking advantage of these resources, students can practice reasoning, analyzing, and inquiring, skills applicable no matter what future they decide upon.

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