Why engage undergraduates in research?
Engaging undergraduates in research is critical to training biomedical scientists and health care professionals who are prepared to tackle the numerous challenges facing modern humans. Students learn most effectively by doing (Simmons et al. 2008) and the hands-on nature of research — coupled with the excitement of discovery as new results unfold – creates a learning environment that cannot be equaled in a lecture hall or conventional laboratory course. Concomitantly, training in the scientific method provides direct exposure to the process by which new knowledge is generated and instills a framework for problem solving that will serve students throughout their careers (Savery 2006). Programs that include guided instructional activities as well as student-developed research projects are more effective at achieving these objectives than are independent research projects alone (Dehaan 2009; Russell 2006). Students who receive close mentoring as part of their research experience typically gain invaluable assistance with their professional development, are more likely to succeed academically, and have a greater probability of remaining active in science and research (Nettles & Millett 2006). In short, engaging undergraduates in structured, mentored research experiences results in better, more broadly trained scholars who will go on to become more effective scientists, health care professionals and an informed citizenry.