Spotlight: Undergraduate Research reveals plans for Fall and speaks on research journal launch

Courtney Green, Managing Editor

The cozy Office of Undergraduate Research will remain empty for most of the upcoming fall semester, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be operating at full-steam ahead.

For those new and returning to UNF who may be unaware, the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) exists to support student researchers of all research backgrounds and help student researchers connect with faculty mentors. The OUR also supports student researchers financially through conference, travel and research grants. In the past, the OUR has also held workshops on writing abstracts and preparing literature reviews, as well as how to get started in research.

Spinnaker did their own research and reached out to Dr. Karen Cousins, Director of Undergraduate Research, to put the OUR under a microscope. Findings included: what students can expect from the OUR this fall, a website revamp, and a curious department shift.


Dr. Karen Cousins, Director of Undergraduate Research. Photo courtesy of Dr. Cousins.

Looking ahead

While the Office of Undergraduate Research will be remote this semester and Dr. Cousins will not be in her office on the first-floor of Founders Hall, she and the OUR have been busy planning something new to showcase student research at UNF: Pandion: The Osprey Journal of Research and Ideas.

Working mock-up of Pandion’s print cover. Artwork is subject to change. Created by Michael Boyles, CIRT Graphic Designer.

Pandion will be going live on UNF’s Digital Commons on Friday, July 31 and can be accessed through the OUR’s website or through the Thomas G. Carpenter Library’s link to Digital Commons. Ten outstanding undergraduate research papers and one graduate research paper will be featured in this volume of Pandion, which will be out in print during the fall semester.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons by putting it together during the pandemic, and we’re going to make it even more robust for the second volume and issue in 2021,” Dr. Cousins promised.

In the past, the Office of Undergraduate Research has hosted the Showcase of Osprey Achievements in Research and Scholarship (SOARS). SOARS is a poster conference where students are able to present their research and it has always been in person — up until the pandemic closed UNF in March 2020. The poster conference was scheduled for April.

SOARS 2020 poster.

“For SOARS 2020, we had to scramble at the last minute and rather than cancel SOARS, we created a virtual conference. All the students who thought they were going to be presenting their research posters in-person actually did it virtually, but it turned out to be awesome, so we’re definitely going to be doing that again this year,” Cousins shared, though she added that she hopes to also have an in-person component by April 2021.

People who are interested in participating in SOARS 2021 are encouraged to watch the OUR website for important information and dates.

Though Dr. Cousins and the Office of Undergraduate Research will be operating remotely, students are encouraged to reach her by email at [email protected] with any questions regarding research.

Website update

In addition to their new publication and planning for SOARS 2021, the OUR is also in the process of updating their website. Students can expect to see new information about what the OUR accomplished last year and what they are currently doing.

“All information about SOARS, information about Pandion, information about attribution of research courses and how we are defining research — there will be a lot of interesting information. I will be including links to some important student conferences such as Florida Undergraduate Research Conference that many UNF students have participated in in the past.”

Regional and national research conferences, many of which will be virtual this year, will also be listed. Information on regional and national grants available to students in certain disciplines and open research experiences will also be made available as the OUR is made aware of them.

The curious case of the department shift…

Formerly attached to the Office of Undergraduate Studies, the OUR is moving under the umbrella of Faculty Development, a new unit that the University introduced pre-pandemic.

“It doesn’t really affect students,” Dr. Cousins assured. Her office will still be located in Founders Hall, though it will remain empty for the foreseeable future.

The OUR moved under the administrative unit of Faculty Development with the goal of better connecting students to faculty mentors.

“Undergraduate Research faces in two directions. It is student-facing, but it is also faculty-facing. One of the things the University wanted me to do that I really enjoy doing is acting as a liaison between the student-facing side and the faculty-facing side,” Dr. Cousins said.

This entails supporting and educate faculty members who sometimes don’t know exactly how to encourage and engage their students in research.

A message to new Ospreys

Addressing the newest members of the Osprey family, the incoming freshmen, Dr. Cousins would like to encourage an embracing of research early on.

“Research is fun,” she said. “Sometimes I think students think, ‘I can’t do research, I don’t know enough, I’m not a science major so research isn’t for me, and I would like all freshmen to know that research is not just for STEM students. In fact, as a historian myself, I’ve been doing research since I was an undergraduate, and it’s active. It allow students to asks questions and engage in finding answers on topics that are of interest to them. So no matter what you’re major is, you can engage in research and it makes it a lot more fun than listening to lectures and reading textbooks.”

Parting thoughts

Dr. Cousins would like people to know that they can reach out to her with research-related questions even if they are unsure about where to start, especially in the “new normal.”

“We are living in some really interesting times right now with the pandemic and social justice issues and with an election coming up, and it’s very uncertain and feels a little unstable, but I think it is sometimes during uncertain and unstable times when we can be our most creative and our most innovative, and I would like the Office of Undergraduate Research to be nimble in that same way,” she said. “If students still want to engage in research but are unsure how they are going to do it in a remote environment, get in touch with me or check out the OUR website.”


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