Research: All Students can Benefit and Contribute

MSU celebrated a milestone achievement this year: research expenditures in excess of $112.3 million. This distinction has greater import than the new feather in Cruzado’s cap; it means that students on campus have unique opportunities.

Several years ago, the Carnegie Foundation awarded MSU the classification of “very high research activity” along with “very high undergraduate” activity. Together, these two distinctions tell us something important about our university — undergraduates are doing research. For many of those on campus, this seems a standard practice; however, clicking around on the Carnegie Foundation website will show that only two other 4-year universities in the nation hold both of these distinguishments.

As MSU continues to garner recognition for these great accomplishments, it is tempting to fall into complacency. But there are still improvements to be made. Departments like physics, ecology, and chemistry and biochemistry thrive with expenditures upward of one million dollars, while English and modern languages spend $19,000 and $5,000 respectively.

MSU would benefit from encouraging research in all of its departments. As science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields progress, it becomes increasingly important that we recognize the value of interdisciplinary work. Involving people from a variety of fields allows for an influx of ideas and experiences, leading to creative solutions.

Effective research in the hard sciences is always supplemented by work in the social sciences. Moreover, the humanities’ attention to cultural norms, values and needs provides a crucial — too often lacking — component to technical projects. Such research is every bit as challenging and rigorous as work done in the lab, and requires more serious dedication than standard coursework, even those courses with the “research” CORE designation.

Luckily, initiatives such as MSU’s Undergraduate Scholars Program, which offers undergraduates the ability to receive up to $1,500 in funding for individual projects, enable students to embark upon real research that can transform their college experience and produce new academic or community contributions.

In a nation in which college graduates struggle to find jobs, research opportunities are becoming increasingly relevant. For MSU students in STEM fields, that’s great news. Now it’s time to bolster research beyond the sciences so that all students at MSU can reap the benefits of our top-tier research and contribute to the quality of work done on campus.

For further insight into research expenditures, visit: http://www.montana.edu/wwwvr/osp/OSPFY12Activity.pdf