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Opening Doors Through Undergraduate Research

The University of Missouri offers a variety of undergraduate research experiences. Early undergraduate research opportunities are crucial to increase the number of students who pursue STEM fields.

One such program is called EXPRESS, which stands for Exposure to Research for Science Students. It is part of MU’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) and is a National Institutes of Health project. The program identifies and trains the next generation of research leaders and innovators in biomedical science from populations underrepresented in science. In the first stage of the program, students attend a weekly seminar to develop a supportive community, learn about campus resources, explore potential careers in biomedical research, and meet twice a month with an upper-class peer mentor. In the second stage, they obtain a paid faculty-mentored research position and continue attending meetings. In stage three, students complete an independent faculty-mentored research project, participate in an immersive summer research internship, travel to a national conference to present a research poster, and apply to graduate programs.

Another successful program is called Freshman Research in Plant Sciences (FRIPS). The program is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). FRIPS was designed to expose new college students to the vital and exciting research being done with plants and to encourage them to consider a research career in the plant sciences. Students work with a mentor in a plant biology research lab and also participate in weekly FRIPS meetings where they learn lab skills and participate in professional development activities.

There are also research opportunities for students outside the university. For example, the Department of Physics and Astronomy also offers a program called Research Experience for Undergraduates in Materials and Modeling, which is sponsored by NSF. Students from around the nation are partnered with a faculty mentor and work alongside a research team in the lab for nine weeks. At the end of the summer, each student prepares a poster and abstract with his or her completed work to present in a poster session and at a research symposium. In addition, many students will co-write articles for journal publication. The students in the program also meet weekly for popular science lectures, special events, skill-development opportunities, career and graduate school guidance, and lunches with other undergraduate researchers.