Undergrad Research Needed at York, Panelists Say

By Rosanna Singh

York College held a panel discussion on utilizing and possibly expanding undergraduate research into the York curriculum.

Panelists included Director from the Office of Undergraduate Research Robert Duncan, Associate Professor of Earth and Physical Sciences Nazrul Khandaker and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Assistant Provost Holger Henke.

The discussion piggybacked off of last month’s Student Research Day on campus, which showcased student research projects. The event hosted a number of guests including New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize Winner Charles Duhigg as one of its key speakers.

The importance of undergraduate research, according to Duncan, is that students learn to apply a truly scientific method into their critical thinking.

“Schools that use undergraduate research had better outcomes, when a student is engaged in research, it’s an instrument for learning, you have to care about this,” said Duncan.

The panelists explored the options as to how they can find solutions to individual problems and discuss the best practices for York College.

Undergraduate research on CUNY campuses is sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), a national program dedicated to helping college students explore possibilities in their departments and to apply research to their studies.

Duncan explained that as a neuroscientist, the science of learning should be more of a brain-based task, connecting students to their teachers using cognitive and psycho-analytical methods.

One of the main goals of brain-based education is to try to bring insights from brain research into the arena of education to enhance teaching and learning. A brain-based educator is someone who understands the principles of how the mind works and uses strategies in a purposeful way. This path is all about an educator who understands the reasoning behind their teaching.

In addition, Duncan added that undergraduate research should be a transformative process, one that York College is undergoing by expanding Student Research Day.

“I think undergraduate research is a good opportunity for students to gain knowledge and experience in their fields,” said Kevin Cheng, a Health Science major. “I believe that students should be given more opportunities to participate in research studies, since they may not get that experience elsewhere.”

Henke noted that the problem with engaging students to take part in undergraduate research, though, is that it’s contagious. If students and staff aren’t excited to be a part of the project, nobody would be, he said.

“Students feel a sense of belonging through research,” said Khandaker, “The research component is great and it’s a big plus for undergraduates. Through undergraduate research students are not confined to a classroom.”

Most students tend to like research more when they can relate to the theme, Khandaker explained. The hope for more students would have to come from the classroom, where students can associate the subject to content-based materials that they’ve already learned in class.

“Undergraduate research is good for your portfolio,” said Sophomore Jonathan Santiago.  “Research allows you to show people work that you’ve done and it diversifies your knowledge on a subject, it shows how students progress in their work.”

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