Two UT groups hosted the fourth annual Research Week to show students that research is an opportunity for them to broaden their educational horizons.
Hosted by the Senate of College Councils and the Office of Undergraduate Research, the sponsored events and presentations promote undergraduate research and creative activity.
“Research is a key part of academic culture at UT,” said council spokesman Michael Morton, a multimedia journalism junior. “We want to emphasize how important research is to the University and how students can get involved.”
This year, the event takes on greater significance in light of recent discussions about the role research plays at UT. In February, the UT System hired former Texas Public Policy Foundation employee Rick O’Donnell for $200,000 a year to serve as a special adviser to the Board of Regents. The system reassigned O’Donnell in March after an outcry from lawmakers and UT’s alumni organization, which claimed the conservative think tank emphasized the value of teaching over research.
O’Donnell clarified his views in a March 24 letter to the Board.
“In a nutshell, I understand and support the value of research, including basic research, and the central role of research universities in the science and technology ecosystem that is the backbone of America’s economic role in the world,” O’Donnell wrote in the letter.
Carisa Nietsche, Plan II Honors senior and council president, said research allows students to demonstrate intellectual curiosity and is essential for universities.
“Research Week shows that undergraduates really are involved and engaged in research and enjoy that their professors are researchers,” Nietsche said. “It also adds value to what it means to get a degree from UT.”
Started in 2008, the weeklong event showcases the broad spectrum of research disciplines, ranging from history to engineering.
“The main goal is to get the average student involved in research, as opposed to those who are ingrained in research due to their majors,” said astronomy senior Alyx Stevens, one of the organizers of the week.
One of the central events is the Longhorn Research Bazaar, a carnival-like event for more than 30 departments, colleges, programs and student organizations to present posters that highlight their undergraduate research activities. The event will take place on the Texas Union patio on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A part of the Senate for College Councils, the Undergraduate Research Committee is responsible for making research opportunities more accessible, in addition to hosting Research Week and planning a reception honoring excellence in undergraduate research that will take place in two weeks.
The planning for this year’s Research Week started shortly after the conclusion of last year’s event.
“This collaboration of students and administrators is unique,” Stevens said. “Both groups want to recognize excellence in undergraduate research to the best of our capabilities, as well as create more opportunities for students on campus.”