Supporting student research endeavors: The Undergraduate Research Network

URN promotes and expands multidisciplinary research on Grounds

hs-URN-Courtesy The Undergraduate Research Network at U.Va

Interested students have the option of utilizing URN to find research opportunities or joining these committees to further the goals of the organization.

Courtesy The Undergraduate Research Network at U.Va.

Established in 2001, the Undergraduate Research Network is connected with the University’s multiple research communities. URN provides resources to allow students to explore and get involved in various disciplines of research. 

URN has six committees — outreach, research and scholarship, symposium, tech and advising, workshops, and the Oculus — comprised of a total of 50 students who work together to expand and advance the University’s research outreach. Interested students have the option of utilizing URN to find research opportunities for themselves or joining these committees to further the goals of the organization.

“Anyone passionate about research or is interested in making a positive impact on the research community at UVA should join URN,” Vaishnavi Madhavan, URN’s Outreach Chair, said in an email. “URN provides a unique opportunity to design programs that benefit research at UVA while allowing students to take part in our discussions about improving the existing research network.”

According to Madhavan, the network offers two recruitment cycles. Applicants generally are asked a few questions and indicate their committee of interest, Madhavan said.

“We do our best to place applicants based on their choices but URN committees meet as a whole during our bi-weekly general body meetings, and there is a continuum of inter-committee work done throughout the year,” Madhavan said. 

In addition to organizational recruitment, URN hosts multiple events throughout the year to promote continuous conduct of research on grounds. 

During the beginning of each fall semester, URN organizes their Research and Scholarship Week. Multiple events occur throughout each day of the week, and the most popular event is the Undergraduate Research Fair.  

“The Undergraduate Research Fair allows for students to meet professors conducting research and also meet with other student researchers,” Madhavan said.

The fair also offers faculty members from various disciplines the chance discuss their projects and encourage students to apply to their labs.

“[This] fair is a great way to network with research faculty and other students,” second-year College student Naga Nannapuneni said. “You can see the ground-breaking research happening on grounds.”

Other events include information sessions on getting involved with research at the University, grant writing workshops and getting funding for research, according to Madhavan. 

URN also presents the Annual Undergraduate Research Network Symposium, an multidisciplinary research fair. Each spring semester, URN encourages students to showcase their work to faculty members at the University. Winners of the symposium receive monetary prizes along with University-wide recognition. Their projects also are published in URN’s Oculus research journal. 

Moreover, URN developed a program that connects undergraduate students directly with research faculty, assisting in the process of searching for research positions. Titled UNLEASH, or Undergraduate Novel Learning Experience and Scientific Hands-on, the online tool helps students find research projects in approximately 40 different academic disciplines across Grounds. UNLEASH requires students fill out an application, which is currently available on the URN website.

In addition to on-Ground opportunities, off-Ground ones are also provided by URN through the University’s Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE). CUE also offers information sessions and aid for national scholarship and fellowship applications, such as the Fulbright Grant and Luce Scholars Program.

URN itself provides travel grants that include travel, lodge and meal expenses for undergraduate students presenting their work at a conference or workshop. 

To capture the research of the University’s students, URN releases an annual publication that highlights such efforts in the Oculus, the University’s only multidisciplinary undergraduate research journal. 

A committee of 15 to 20 students read through multiple research papers each week. Through various rounds of elimination conducted by groups of editors, the papers of the highest quality and clarity are included in the annual publication. Applications to join the Oculus’ editorial board also are available during the beginning of each semester. 

Nannapuneni said that being part of the Undergraduate Research Network has supported and furthered his research interests.

“By participating in URN, I thoroughly understand the process of acquiring a research position and currently research at the Li Lab at U.Va’s School of Medicine,” Nannapuneni said. 

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