Research Experience and Insight for Undergraduates
Research Experience and Insight for Undergraduates
  • Reporter Lee Sang-min
  • 승인 2009.12.09 15:46
  • 댓글 0
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▲ An URP participant is presenting about her research.
From Nov. 24 to Nov. 25, the ‘POSTECH Science Festival with Global Companies’ was held in POSCO International Center. Major companies gave introductory presentations and promoted themselves to talented students of POSTECH for their future potential. As well as presentations, there  were active recruiting and cultural performances. A part of schedule was named ‘Undergraduate Research Program Presentation’. What is the Undergraduate Research Program?

Normally, in undergraduate school, students in science and engineering departments learn basic principles and knowledge about their major. It is in graduate school where they start their own research projects. Logically, it is a reasonable sequence for students to first learn the results of old research and then start their own research. Thus, what is done in undergraduate school is totally different from that which is done in graduate school or in future work as science and engineering researchers. This  means that undergraduate students have no chance or right to experience future work and to ensure their aptitudes. Because undergraduate students cannot reach  a certain level to study subjects on their own like doctoral candidates, there should be an alternative program.

There are three solutions running for undergraduate students without any experience or assurance of their future as researchers. The first is to participate in various exhibitions and programs. Especially on vacation, there are many programs for students to explore their aptitude. However, such programs are short and perhaps easily forgotten. Second, participating in laboratories offers better understanding and experiences than the former one, though more time and effort is necessary. Also, in POSTECH, undergraduate students can acquire credits for participating in laboratories.

The Undergraduate Research Program (URP), the last solution, provides the form most similar to real project execution. The purpose of the URP is to give undergraduate students student-oriented research opportunities and to offer such laboratory experiences as communication and interaction with other researchers. The program starts with self-selection of subjects and advisors, similar to doctoral and postdoctoral research. If students’ project plans are confirmed, research is launched. In contrast to participation in laboratories, students should express their results in midterm and final presentations and reports. In short, URP participants do their own research projects. Furthermore, in performing such activities as writing a research notebook and managing research expenses, adaptation of students to real research is expected, too.

From last year, the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity launched URP recruitment. In the demonstration project in 2008, 15 teams of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) took part. In this year, URP is organized formally and its range is expanded to the whole country. One hundred and four teams are running, and 1.5 billion won is supported for their research. Two or three students make a team, and a maximum of 20 million won can be provided for a one-year project.

POSTECH has performed its URP independently for a longer time. Since 2000, POSTECH has been a pioneer of undergraduate research. Government supported URP which was introduced before, is based on the precedent of POSTECH. Each team can be supported with five million won for a half-year project. At present, 49 teams are  researching.

POSTECH is the first research-oriented university in Korea, and its environment is optimized to do better research. The advanced Undergraduate Research Program well expresses the motives and merits of POSTECH. Many research teams have been formed among undergraduate students. However, there was not a large audience for students’ presentations during the Science Festival. Doing research is not only executing projects, but fostering mutual development through the interaction process among researchers. When students realize this and participate in other’s presentations, undergraduate research in POSTECH can develop more.