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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 important, 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.


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:


The Council on Undergraduate Research to Recognize Excellence in Undergraduate Research Wednesday, January 13,2016

The Council on Undergraduate Research to Recognize Excellence in Undergraduate Research

On January 22, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) will be celebrating the achievements in undergraduate research at Allegheny College, George Mason University, and The College of New Jersey. These institutions are recipients of the Campus-wide Awards for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment (AURA), annual awards modeled on the CUR's Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research, which recognizes institutions that have devised exemplary programs providing high-quality research experiences to undergraduates.

For more please visit CUR webpage.

George Mason University Wins Award for Its ‘National Model’ of Student Research Thursday, October 29,2015

George Mason University Wins Award for Its ‘National Model’ of Student Research

“We encourage our students to pursue research because it is one of the most effective and transformative learning experiences they can have,” said Ángel Cabrera, Mason president. “This is true whether or not a student decides to pursue a research career, and that is the greatest value a research university can offer a student.”

Mason is the largest public research university in Virginia. At the core of Mason’s mission is its signature learning experience, which encourages students to incorporate research into their studies. From pioneering virologists to prize-winning economists, students work alongside researchers at the top of their game.

About 2,725 students in the past three years have completed an original research or creative project. Plus, more than 17,000 students have been introduced to undergraduate research and creative activities through courses and projects.

Mason has created a “national model for other institutions to emulate,” according to the nonprofit Council on Undergraduate Research, which has more than 700 institutions and 10,000 individual members.

“This annual award will recognize institutions that have devised exemplary programs providing high-quality research experiences to undergraduates,” said Beth Ambos, council executive officer. “The award will not only require campuses to have depth and breadth in their undergraduate research initiatives, but evidence of innovation of a sustained nature.”

At Mason, student research and creative work is integrated throughout the university and guided by the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR), home of the Students as Scholars initiative. Top Mason researchers and faculty mentor students, departmental grants are available to integrate scholarly inquiry and research into the curriculum, and undergraduates can apply for student travel support, said Bethany Usher, director of Mason’s Students as Scholars initiative. Moreover, OSCAR oversees a faculty mentoring award and a student award for excellence in undergraduate research and creative work.

Students at Mason are working as undergraduates to solve real-world problems. For example, bioengineering major Sameen Yusuf developed a low-cost oxygen analyzer to be used in hospitals in developing countries.

Finance major Juwariah Shareef is building the foundation for her business career by researching and analyzing slow economic growth of “export processing zones” in Pakistan. Her groundbreaking research can be used as a template for similar developing countries.

And bioengineering major Alex Nixon is working on a skin patch capable of detecting melanomas and on nanotechnology for biodefense use.

What sets Mason apart from other universities is how students, faculty and administration are united in their commitment to the Students as Scholars program, according to the council. Academic units at Mason have integrated research concepts throughout the curriculum so students at all levels learn how to engage in research in increasingly sophisticated and independent ways.

Mason then tracks student progress by using surveys for students and having professors evaluate the student work following a specific rubric. These data are used to refine the Students as Scholars programs so that the university best supports its students and faculty.

This robust research experience prepares students for further graduate study or jobs after graduation, the council said.

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