“As a researcher, being published is a validation of all the work you’ve done and you can get your ideas out there."

Wayne State is one of three members included in the University Research Corridor, an alliance between WSU, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, which works to emphasizes the importance of university research labs.

WSU is also "one of 10 U.S. public universities in major cities holding the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s designation as an institution with 'very high research activity,'" according to WSU's research website.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program offers students the chance to dive deeper into their fields of interests, work alongside experts and become researchers. 

Through UROP, students propose their project goals and are required work with a faculty member volunteering to mentor the student throughout the course of their project.

UROP funds are awarded to about 30 undergraduates per award season. The awards are granted for either the spring/summer through fall terms or during the winter through spring/summer terms.

"We fund creative projects the same way we fund hard science research," said Matthew Orr, program coordinator of UROP. "Anybody can apply. We have no grade point requirement.” 

Projects recently funded by UROP include: a study on women and malnutrition in Uganda, a film about a free health clinic in Detroit, serotonin and its role on central sleep apnea and network mapping of the water crisis governance in Flint, Michigan.

Students are awarded the funds and their projects can be anything they envision. 

Selected WSU faculty members were recently awarded a collection of grants to benefit their studies and supplement their labs: $2.3 million given to a WSU cognitive neuroscientist to study fetus-to-infant brain development; $1.7 million to advance virtually guided weldability qualification and $1.9 million to identify memory networks in children.

Orr also named summer research opportunities available to students, including a summer undergraduate research fellowships, the Summer Undergraduate Research Academy, the Perrigo Undergraduate Summer Fellowship, the APA Summer Scholars and the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program.

Students can also contribute to research projects on campus year-round.

Specific programs such as the APA Summer Scholars and the BUILD program were developed to help integrate underrepresented students into scientific research. 

Victoria Fos, a sophomore biology major, was able to land a spot in a Department of Pharmacology lab through the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program. Fos' lab is working to identify critical proteolytic pathways that may contribute to cancer progression.

“It is tedious and it’s a lot of work, but it’s amazing,” Fos said. "You get to see cancer cells divide and how a gene can be knocked out. I get to see amazing things and work with great people.”

Other students such as Matthew Kolar, a junior studying biochemistry and musical performance, have found opportunities through peer recommendations.

Kolar said he joined a lab in the Department of Physiology because as a biochemistry major, it was a requirement. 

He now plans to stay in the lab until he graduates in three years with his dual major. He added that research is “definitely stressful and tiresome, but it’s completely worth it.” 

Kolar praised his lab’s primary investigator Dr. Jian-Ping Jin, the chair of the Physiology Department, for his consistent encouragement and support. He said Dr. Jin motivated him to stay involved with the lab, despite the rigor of the work required.

“Dr. Jin, he’s amazing," Kolar said. "He pushes you to be the best you can possibly be and to accomplish more than you thought you could. He’s shown me that there’s no end to research and the possibilities are endless."

Fos and Kolar said seeing their research published one day motivated them to continue working hard on their projects. 

“As a researcher, being published is a validation of all the work you’ve done and you can get your ideas out there. Everyone can benefit from your work,” Kolar said.

Students can find postings of paid research positions by using WSU’s Career Services website, or they can simply find a project that interests them and email the principal investigator.

Many on-campus labs are accessible through websites for students to get a better idea of the kind of research done there, such as Dr. Noa Ofen’s lab for Cognitive and Brain Development.

UROP coordinators have also set up UROPConnect, a searchable database of WSU faculty members with their research interests listed. At the bottom of the faculty members’ interests page is the option to send them a message to inquire about joining the lab. 

Dr. Jin said a unique nature of skills can be gained in a lab.

“Working in a lab is different than classroom learning. It’s not just giving a student a textbook and telling them to memorize facts and having them take tests. It is training students in self-learning and problem-solving abilities,” Jin said.

Visit the UROP webpage to apply or for more information about research opportunities.

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