Furman’s undergraduate research efforts in all disciplines have earned national prominence with support from the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Office of Integrated Research in the Sciences. Prevailing features of Furman’s research program are the breadth of participation across all disciplines, and the high quality of work that is produced, as reflected by the success rate of earning competitive federal grants, student/faculty coauthored publications in highly regarded, peer-reviewed journals across multiple disciplines, and national recognition of student and faculty excellence through numerous individual awards.
Before the pandemic, our undergraduate research program for summer 2020 was to have 280 student researchers working with more than 100 faculty mentors – 70 more students than the record-high in summer 2019. With the new safety measures, research shifted from on-campus to remote, and some projects were canceled – but Furman still retained 232 student researchers working with just over 100 faculty mentors, which represents more student research fellows than in any other year in the university’s history.
Suresh Muthukrishnan, professor and chair of the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Sustainability Sciences Department, researches how drones and GIS data can improve soil quality and crop productivity.
Faculty mentors adapted their projects to remote experiences, often by incorporating interdisciplinary methodologies outside their immediate expertise. An unforeseen benefit emerged – new virtual communities among research teams from differing departments and disciplines, as both faculty and students reached out to one another for advice and support for their evolving projects. Additionally, student fellows participated in a series of training modules – remodeled to be virtual – that were designed to help them understand the relevance of their research experience to their post-graduate plans, even if their career choice was unrelated to their summer project.
The success and agility of these measures illustrates the effectiveness of Furman’s individualized approach to working with each faculty director, program, student and parent.