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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:


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.

Fall 2016 Students as Scholars/OSCAR Updates Thursday, August 18,2016

Fall 2016 Students as Scholars/OSCAR Updates

Research Assistants available!

Once again, OSCAR is offering faculty the opportunity to hire undergraduate students as research assistants during the 2016-2017 academic year, using the Federal Work Study program. The OSCAR Work-Study Research Assistantships are intended to give undergraduate students an introduction to the concept of scholarship and to learn the research or scholarly methods in their field, while giving faculty essentially free research assistance in exchange for mentoring students. Student eligibility is determined by the Financial Aid Office, who notifies eligible students at the beginning of the academic year, but OSCAR can also advise students on their eligibility.

We welcome positions from every program on campus, and plan to offer about 120 positions this year. We need your help in getting positions posted by September 2! We will hold an Open House on Wednesday, August 24th, from 9-noon in OSCAR (JC246) to help faculty post Research Assistant positions. Please feel free to stop by, call us at 703-993-3794, email, or check the Research Assistant webpage for more information. 

OSCAR Dates, Activities, and Deadlines

2016-2017 is going to be an exciting year. We'll be bringing back the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships to talk with students and faculty about opportunities at the Smithsonian, and introducing a new series of student-oriented research workshops. We'll continue to support inquiry- and research-based curricula through our Scholarship Development Grants  and RS courses   Deadlines and dates for the Scholarship Development Grants, RS applications, URSP proposals, Research Assistants program, and other events are all available on our website. Undergraduate Student Travel Grants are accepted on a rolling basis.

Council on Undergraduate Research Memberships available

Mason won a free enhanced membership in the Council on Undergraduate Research as a part of the AURA award, and we would love for you and your faculty to take advantage of it. CUR has specialty divisions in Arts and Humanities, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Geosciences, Health Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, Psychology, and Social Sciences, as well as At-large, if you can't find a home in one of those. Encourage your faculty to sign up as members (totally free) and take advantage of information targeted towards supporting undergraduate scholarship in your field. 

Exciting staff changes in OSCAR!

Dr. Karen Lee has joined OSCAR as our new Assistant Director. She'll be leading our student-oriented programs, and we are thrilled to have her! Read more about her in our blog post, and please feel free to stop by and say hi. Samira Lloyd's great work has been recognized by being promoted to Program Specialist. We in the process of hiring a new Office Coordinator. Stay tuned for updates.

Visits to classes

OSCAR staff is always happy to come to classes to talk about OSCAR programs. We can also arrange to have any OSCAR staff member or one of our student OSCAR Fellows come to classes to talk with students about OSCAR opportunities. Just email us to make arrangements. 

Thank you and we are looking forward to seeing you this Fall!

-The OSCAR Team