Undergraduate research expands student experience

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Undergrad Research PictureGeorgia Gwinnett is unique as it offers undergraduate research experiences to all STEM majors, no matter their academic year.

“At most institutions, undergraduates are not offered research opportunities until their junior or senior years,” said Dr. Thomas Mundie, dean of the School of Science and Technology. “We provide all of our students such opportunities, even freshmen.”

Undergraduate research experiences expose students to the kinds of questions they will encounter in the real-world work environment, challenge them to solve problems, enable them to hone their technical and critical thinking skills, and possibly uncover hidden talents or reveal new interests.

Students may choose research projects for many reasons. Faculty might encourage students to pursue certain projects. Class-related exercises might incite interest in a particular project, or students may come up with research ideas on their own. Faculty mentors then guide the students through their research. Some projects may take a few months, while others might last years.

“Often, undergraduate research helps students better focus their career goals. A student might be planning a future in biochemistry, but a research project may inspire a passion for microbiology,” Mundie said. “Research also may lead students to pursue additional bachelor degrees or even graduate school.”

Many GGC students have made research presentations at prestigious scientific conferences, co-authored scientific papers and even been included on patents arising from research projects conducted with faculty.

“This is incredible experience,” Mundie said. “Students can jump-start their careers and network with professionals in their chosen field. They don’t have to wait until graduating from college to make a real contribution to the expansion of human knowledge. They can make discoveries right now, at GGC.”

GGC already is producing a significant number of educated and skilled STEM professionals for the Gwinnett County and northeast Atlanta region. About one-third of the degrees awarded by the college in the last year were in STEM fields.

By offering undergraduate research for all STEM students, the college ensures that its graduates are better prepared to compete for employment opportunities and to contribute to the region’s STEM-related industries.

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