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Undergrads Find Persistence is Key to Their Research Successes Wednesday, May 18,2016

Undergrads Find Persistence is Key to Their Research Successes

Mason’s Program Hailed as “National Model”

Presented by the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR), the Celebration of Student Scholarship is an annual showcase for the Students as Scholars program, which provides funding and support for the scholarly work of hundreds of Mason undergraduates each year. Students representing every school of the university presented posters summarizing their research projects in fields ranging from bioengineering to economics, from ecology to anthropology, and from political science to dance.

The power of persistence was a lesson also shared by Francis Aguisanda, BS Biology ‘14, for whom the Students as Scholars opportunity was a life-changing experience. Francis landed a position in Dr. Daniel Cox’s neuroscience lab, but after one semester, he told Dr. Cox that he might have to quit: “I wasn’t sure that I could balance my life in the lab with my extracurriculars and with being a student. But with the encouragement of Dr. Cox and my friends, I persevered.” Francis now works as a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, and in the fall of 2016 he will begin the PhD program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University.

At most universities, research of this depth and caliber is the province of graduate students. But in this (as in so must else!), Mason is exceptional. More than 3,600 undergraduates have completed research projects over the past four years, says Dr. Bethany Usher, director of the Students as Scholars program. These undergrads have not only planned and carried out a research project, but also publicly shared results outside of the classroom.

The amazing success of Students as Scholars was highlighted when the Council on Undergraduate Research, a leading national organization, awarded Mason its 2015 Campus-wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment. In honoring Mason’s program as the best in the nation, the council called Students as Scholars a “national model for other institutions to emulate.”

Opportunities to Support Student Scholarship

Between its impressive impact on students’ lives, and national recognition for its excellence, Students as Scholars is clearly one of the jewels in Mason’s crown. And there is plenty of room to grow. As Dr. Usher says, “One of our goals is that every student has the opportunity to do research here.”

Surprisingly, philanthropic support currently accounts for virtually none of the program’s annual budget. As a result, it must scrape for such essential elements as funding students to travel to and present at the annual National Conference for Undergraduate Research. Examples of how charitable gifts could be used include:

  • A gift of $500 for the travel fund will allow one undergraduate student to share his or her research project at a national conference.

  • A gift of $1,500 supports one student with a research grant during the fall or spring semester.

  • A gift of $5,000 provides one student with a full-time summer stipend, alleviating the need for an extra job and making it possible to work all summer on an intensive research project with a faculty mentor.

If you would like to support a student by making a gift to Students as Scholars, please use our online giving form and designate your gift to “Undergraduate Research Programs.” If you prefer to give by mail, you may send your check to: Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations, 4400 University Drive, MS 1A3, Fairfax, VA 22030. We are happy to answer your questions or provide further information; please call the Office of Advancement at 703-993-8850.

Read more and support here:


SWiRL awarded OSCAR grant to operate in the summer Thursday, September 1,2016

SWiRL awarded OSCAR grant to operate in the summer

In Spring 2016, the Social Work integrative Research Lab (SWiRL) was awarded $46,500 by the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR). This funding has enabled us to provide stipends for student participants, and allowed us to operate for the first time during the summer. Our inaugural Summer SWiRL employed one coordinator, two Graduate Research Supervisors (GRS), and four Undergraduate Research Assistants (UGRA). While students continued to develop their research skills by supporting faculty research, Summer SWiRL also provided the opportunity for students to work on the SWiRL Case Study. The SWiRL Case Study is an evaluation of SWiRL. This summer, students interviewed faculty and then transcribed and coded those interviews. In addition, Summer SWiRL featured a weekly brown bag talk, which included skill building workshops (coding), interactive sessions (grad student Q&A), and guest speakers (Professor Valerie Cuffee). As we are learning through the SWiRL Case Study, students experience a variety of benefits from their participation in SWiRL beyond simply developing research skills. As Hannah Carrai said in our last summer lab meeting, “I found community, and I didn’t even know I was looking for it.” SWiRL will continue in the fall with paid, independent study, and volunteer opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students. 

This passage was taken out of the SWiRL Summer 2016 Newsletter. 

Summer Team Project Grants - Due November 2nd Monday, October 17,2016

Summer Team Project Grants - Due November 2nd

The Summer Projects will be run by at least two faculty members, and include from four to ten undergraduate students. Faculty will propose a research topic and structure in the fall (proposals due November 2). Accepted projects will recruit undergraduate participants in the spring.

During the summer, faculty will be expected to use the first week to give the students an academic orientation to the program, and the second to help the students develop individual or team projects. Students will work, with faculty mentorship, on the project for the remaining weeks of the summer, and will present their results at OSCAR's Summer Celebration of Student Scholarship.

Each faculty will be given a $3000 stipend, and the students will earn $4000 for their work over the summer. There are also some funds available for supplies or travel needed for the project.

Please share this opportunity with your faculty, and encourage them to apply. We're happy to answer any questions, and look forward to seeing the proposals!

Recap on an energizing experience at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) Friday, May 20,2016

Recap on an energizing experience at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR)

Bethany Usher loves the energy she feels when she attends the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

“The whole place is electric for three days,” she said.

As director of the Students as Scholars initiative through George Mason University’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR), Usher will accompany 67 George Mason students to the 30th annual conference, April 7-9, in Asheville, N.C.

“It’s the most prestigious undergraduate research conference in the country,” Usher said.

About 3,900 students covering multiple disciplines will present their research in front of peers and, most importantly, Usher said, graduate program recruiters. Students applied to the conference with abstracts of their research that were reviewed.

OSCAR, with support from the George Mason Foundation, is paying the way for Mason’s attendees, who will take a bus to the conference and stay four-to-a-room at a local hotel. A pizza party, also on Mason, is scheduled for one night of their stay.

“We’re particularly proud that we’re not an elite program,” Usher said of OSCAR, which facilitates student research with grants and assistantships. “We’re proud we’re able to give students across the university the ability to be part of research.”

Here are a just a few of them.