Engaging Undergraduate Students with Research

Each year, many new and returning OSU undergraduates look forward to engaging in forms of experiential learning beyond the classroom. Engaging undergraduates in research, for example, is central to OSU’s Strategic Plan 4.0, and has been shown to lead to a wide range of personal and professional gains for those who participate (Kuh, 2008; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015). However, remote teaching and learning makes it difficult for students to secure important connections with faculty engaging in research outside of class time.

While some feel that the quality and availability of undergraduate research experiences is threatened by the transition to remote teaching and learning during the global pandemic, we are seeing inspiring cases across campus where faculty mentors are continuing to provide students with high-impact research experiences. Click here for a collection of strategies OSU mentors are currently using to keep their undergraduates engaged in research while working remotely. It is our hope, by providing a list of examples, other faculty will be inspired to continue engaging their students in research projects, where possible, during this challenging time. This is a live document – feel free to contribute!

CTL and the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, & the Arts (Office of URSA) are committed to supporting faculty who are willing to continue engaging undergraduates in research remotely. To this end, we have launched the Research for Undergraduates Network (RUN), which is intended to be a space for undergraduate research mentors (faculty, graduate students, & post-docs), and those who facilitate undergraduate research programs at OSU, to collaborate and share promising practices. In addition to the programming offered through RUN during the 2020-2021 academic year, the Office of URSA has a new page devoted to resources for undergraduate research mentors, including a sample mentoring agreement, a list of publications with undergraduate authors, guidelines for how to hire a student receiving Federal Work Study funds, and a description of our new Undergraduate Research Mentoring Awards.

If you are wondering how to get involved as an undergraduate research mentor this coming year, consider submitting a summary to participate in the 2020-2021 URSA Engage Program (those with all types of faculty appointments are eligible to serve as mentors, including professional faculty). Below are the five major steps involved in selection for the URSA Engage Program.  

  1. Faculty submit a mentor summary form by October 19, 2020 (you will be asked to outline a remote contingency plan).
  2. The opportunities submitted by faculty will be posted on our website for students to view on October 23rd.
  3. Students will read through mentor summaries and reach out to faculty mentors they are interested in working with. Students and faculty will then discuss shared interests and whether they want to work together on a project.
  4. Faculty will ultimately decide which student(s) they will allow to move forward with an application to the URSA Engage Program (i.e. students cannot apply until they have a mentor secured).
  5. Students who have secured a mentor will then apply to the URSA Engage Program. Student applications will be evaluated by the Office of URSA.

As educators, we must think creatively about how to ensure students are still able to benefit from participation in undergraduate research, despite how different these experiences may look. If you have any questions or want to brainstorm ways to make your research accessible to students remotely, we are here to help.


Author Bio: Dr. Sophie Pierszalowski is the Associate Director for Undergraduate Research at OSU and oversees OSU’s Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts (Office of URSA). Sophie is a researcher and practitioner committed to developing and delivering equity-minded undergraduate research programs and resources that are accessible to students across all disciplines and demographics.


Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2015). Integrating Discover-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum: Report of a Convocation. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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