Shadowing program gives sneak-peek at UAH’s undergraduate research opportunities

students from the region’s high schools and community colleges

Almost three dozen students from the region’s high schools and community colleges spent the afternoon shadowing UAH undergraduates to get an idea of the university’s research opportunities.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Earlier this month, 31 students from area high schools applied and were invited to spend an afternoon at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), shadowing undergraduate participants in the university’s Summer Community of Scholars. This 80+ members group is made up of the Research or Creative Experience for Undergraduates (RCEU) summer program and the Honors Capstone Research (HCR) summer program, as well as students doing research with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site and Supplement programs, and any other undergraduate researchers on campus during the summer semester. The shadowing event allowed the visiting students to get an insider’s look at UAH’s undergraduate research opportunities and network with both peers and faculty members while learning more about the specific research projects they applied to work on.

"This is the fourth year that we’ve offered the shadowing program, and we’re really excited to see a four-fold increase in the turnout among the participating high school students," says Dave Cook, UAH’s director of undergraduate research. "It’s really a one-of-a-kind opportunity for aspiring college students to be able to spend some time at UAH and learn about all of the hands-on, high-level research that our undergraduates do – and that they might also be able to do one day, if they decide to attend UAH."

Designed to expand hands-on research opportunities to UAH’s undergraduates, the RCEU and Honors Capstone programs allow students to participate in ongoing research projects under the supervision of a faculty member or researcher for a period of 10 to 12 weeks over the summer. In addition, undergraduate researchers undergo six professional development training sessions, with the program culminating in a poster session in the Fall. The shadowing program, in turn, invites those planning to attend university to spend a few hours with their undergraduate counterparts touring lab space, meeting with faculty members, and occasionally taking part in hands-on experiments.

This year’s cohort of shadowing students came from New Century Technology High School, James Clemens High School, Columbia High School, Bob Jones High School, Grissom High School, Covenant Christian Academy, Hazel Green High School, Section High School, Buckhorn High School, and Whitesburg Christian Academy. Each was asked to submit their preference for – and then paired with – an RCEU or Honors Capstone project, whose topics included an examination of the possible links to exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder, the effect of electric fields on Martian dust, new methods to 3-D print ceramic materials, microbiological techniques and protocols necessary to screen for mutant bacteria, and an underwater treadmill walking program for adults with multiple sclerosis.

Those who took part expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about UAH and the research being done here. A post-event survey included comments such as the following:

  • I think the program is very important and useful in helping students determine what career field they want to go into. I am now more aware of the nursing field after my shadowing experience.
  • I learned a lot of new information that I had no idea about, and it taught me a lot of information I never would’ve known.
  • I was able to learn much about not only the topic that we conducted the lab on, but also about UAH in general.
  • It was a great experience to actually talk to and learn from student researchers and actual college faculty.
  • I was able to learn about the topics that are being researched by the people who are doing the research and not an outside source.

With this year’s shadow program now complete, Cook is looking ahead to next year’s with the goal of reaching out to even more high schools and community colleges. "This year, the program really caught on, so I want to be sure to increase the offerings next year, so that we can accommodate even more visiting students," he says. "Our goal is to show that, at UAH, we offer opportunities to ambitious undergraduate students who want to get involved in their education beyond the classroom. Participating in research is the application and extension of classroom learning, and offers big benefits for those students ready for the challenge. If the visiting students like what they see, we hope that they’ll join us here at UAH."


Dave Cook
Director of Undergraduate Research


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