Undergraduate Scholars Program helps students achieve goals

Want to study viruses in Munich, Germany? Interested in exploring ways to help children in developing countries?  Talk with the folks at the Undergraduate Scholars Program (USP). One of the largest multidisciplinary research programs at MSU, USP helps undergraduate students achieve their educational goals by supporting them with various types of funding and logistical support.

The goal of USP is to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to gain “hands-on experience” through the “learning-by-doing” model to prepare students for graduate school or professional employment after graduation.

USP program coordinator Scarlet Schwendtner emphasized the benefits of USP. “It is so valuable to have students engaged in undergraduate research because it allows them to apply what they have learned in the classroom and use it outside of the classroom,” said Schwendtner.

USP provides research grants to eligible students (undergraduate status, enrolled full-time, good academic standing) working on research projects developed and approved in consultation with MSU faculty. The grants are open to all academic disciplines including traditional scientific research, social science, humanities and arts.

Schwendtner highlighted the range of majors USP is able to work with, “It’s great because it is open to everyone.” She went on to list a projects that ranged from translating a poem to modern english and studying microbes in different environments.

Sophomore Benjamin Moon had the opportunity to work with USP when he traveled to Washington, D.C. for a week to work at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The electrical engineering major said the trip would not have been possible had USP not covered the trip fee. “It was a really neat opportunity and USP was really helpful; they were great to work with,” said Moon.

However, USP does not only fund travel needed to complete special research projects. After successful completion of a project, USP also offers travel grants to students that are accepted to present (or co-present) their research or creative projects at regional, national or international academic or professional conferences.

Every academic year USP coordinates the Student Research Celebration and the Student Research Month. The goal of these events is to celebrate student achievement in research, scholarship and creativity and to inform more people about the opportunities offered by USP. Graduate and undergraduate students from all academic disciplines are invited to present their research and creative projects to the MSU community at the annual Student Research Celebration.

USP also connects students to several special programs that can support their educational goals, including the Student Community Outreach Project (SCOPE), the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the Montana Institute on Ecosystems Summer Internship Program and the Amgen Scholars Program.

USP has supported various students and their research projects in the past academic years (starting in 2002). For example, the program helped mechanical engineering major Kevin Bangen successfully complete his project “Damage mechanics in biological tissue with an emphasis on suture, staple and adhesive behavior.” graphic design major Alexandra Black received help with her project, “American-Tourism vs. Mexican Culture,” and psychological sciences major Elsa Howard with her presentation “Placebo effects, a matter of motivation?”

USP offers preparation and training for interested and eligible students in getting started with their research projects and ideas. All eligible student are welcome to apply.

For more information on USP visit montana.edu/usp/.