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Student in a laboratory holding science tools

Undergrad research is a key part of the learning experience for students at Mount Saint Mary's University.

Building a research culture for the 21st century

Since launching its Center for Academic Innovation and Creativity in 2014, Mount Saint Mary’s is promoting undergraduate research as a strategy for enhancing learning, preparing students for graduate studies, and helping advance their careers in the humanities, physical and social sciences and technology.   

  • During the past two years, student involvement in the Mount’s Academic Symposium has nearly doubled. Approximately 160 students participated in this year’s session, which featured 30 poster and 24 oral presentations.
  • The Keck Summer Undergraduate Research Program continues to expand since its launch in 2015. The second annual session, which began in late May, is teaming 12 students with six faculty mentors for an intensive 10-week program that will be held in-residence at Chalon. 

Academic partnerships are fundamental
“The Mount has a long history of strong academic partnerships between students and faculty,” said Kim Middleton, who was appointed director of the center in 2014. “Those relationships are fundamental to creating a 21st century learning culture that connects the best interdisciplinary research practices with in-classroom instruction and other campus initiatives, such as the Academic Symposium, service learning and faculty development.”

Philosophy Professor Paul Green, with support from the center, is working with academic departments to identify how undergraduate research is being conducted, gaps where the University may be missing opportunities for integrating student research into formal classroom instruction, and what resources may be required to fill those gaps. The center also has begun working with the University Archives to develop a centralized repository that would include instructional “best practices” to support faculty development and catalog undergraduate research.

“Our motivation is to develop the systems that will enable as many students as possible to get on the ‘research bus,’” said Green, who also coordinates the Keck summer program. “Research opportunities have a significant, long-term impact on student learning. If they are used in the right way and with the right mentors, students can learn more and, longer term, they can develop essential research skills applicable in a variety of scientific and non-scientific professions.”

Research: A game-changer
“In the end, the Mount’s efforts to integrate research into its undergraduate programs will be a game-changer for women – particularly those who are of color and first-generation undergrads – who remain significantly underrepresented among the ranks of researchers across the country,” said Middleton. “Our initiatives are one way to create a pipeline for the next generation of researchers who will take the lead in expanding the pool of research in the STEM fields and, particularly, in the humanities and social sciences.”

Keck Summer Undergraduate Research Program
The 10-week summer program, which is partially funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation, is designed to highlight and integrate research across a variety of disciplines. This year’s session includes six research projects, spearheaded by undergraduates, including:

  • Electronic Health Records and California Physical Therapists – The project will evaluate how prepared physical therapists are to use electronic health information technology in delivering patient care. With California only recently authorizing therapists to treat patients without a physician referral, there is scant information regarding gaps in training and the availability of specific management tools therapists need.
  • Informatics-driven Primary Health Care – Working in an inter-professional preventive services clinic, nursing students will study and beta test a secure web-based patient registry that will serve as a “personal health profile” for primary care teams, faculty and other students.
  • Philosophy and the Search for Lo Mexicano – The study will examine the nature of cultural identity and the role of philosophy in forging social identities, in particular, the formation and meaning of Mexican identity after the Mexican Revolution. 

Third Annual Academic Symposium
This forum annually showcases the research and creative work of Mount students and faculty. This year’s event featured 54 presentations covering a diverse range of research topics, including:

  • A Sister-Scholar’s Legacy: Mosquito Research Then and Now
  • The Effects of Complementary and Alternative Therapies on Sleep Deprivation
  • The Exploration of Parking Landscape and the Housing Shortage in Los Angeles County
  • The Effectiveness of Oral Care in Reducing Ventilated-associated Pneumonia in ICU Patients
  • Minority Women in STEM Fields: Increasing Capacity by Developing STEM Identity
  • Perceptions and Help-seeking Behaviors Among the Latino Transgender Community
  • Antisemitism as a Microcosm of Conspiratorial Thought
  • Science of Sustainable Foods
  • Myths and Realities of Homelessness: Discrimination and Access to Services
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