Shadow program gives aspiring undergraduates a sneak-peek of UAH’s research opportunities

RCEU shadowing

Students from area high schools and community colleges spent an afternoon shadowing undergraduate members of UAH’s Summer Community of Scholars.

Nick Levenant | UAH

Earlier this month, a dozen students from area high schools and community colleges were invited to spend an afternoon at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) shadowing undergraduate members of the university’s Summer Community of Scholars (SCS). The SCS comprises more than 80 UAH students participating in the Research or Creative Experience for Undergraduates (RCEU) summer program, the Honors Capstone Research (HCR) summer program, and the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Site and Supplement programs, as well as those serving as NASA interns and conducting independent research on campus during the summer semester.

The shadowing event, held on Thursday, June 8, allowed the visiting students to get an insider’s look at UAH’s 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 third year that we’ve offered the shadowing program, and we’re really excited to see the enthusiasm for research among the participating high school and community college students," says Dave Cook, UAH’s student research coordinator. "It’s really a one-of-a-kind opportunity for them to be able to spend some time on our campus 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."

RCEU student

Visiting students toured UAH’s lab space, met with faculty members, and learned more about the research projects they applied to work on.

Nick Levenant | UAH

Designed to expand hands-on research opportunities to UAH’s undergraduates, the RCEU and HCR 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. They also 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 students came from James Clemens High School, Columbia High School, the Alabama School of Fine Arts, Randolph School, Jemison High School’s College Academy, and Calhoun Community College. Each was asked to submit their preference for – and then paired with – an RCEU or HCR project, whose topics ranged from federally endangered cyprinid fish species and the high-altitude flight of monarch butterflies to privateers in the early American republic and the inkjet printing of composite electrodes for battery applications.

"The research project I was involved with consisted of studying a specific protein structure in relation to the Oropouche virus," says Calhoun Community College student Michael Haney, who shadowed UAH student Cashmaron Crutcher. "I was introduced to some of the technological tools and methods used to study the virus and gained valuable insight into the nature of the research and what the career of a researcher or scientist may be like."

Other students expressed a similar appreciation for the experience in a post-event survey, with comments that included the following:

  • "I think the shadowing program is a great opportunity and would love to take part in student research projects based on what I saw throughout my day at UAH."
  • "I loved it. It inspired me to pursue research more than I previously planned."
  • "I think the shadowing program at UAH is a great way to gain insight about specific fields of study one may be considering."
  • "I think it was actually pretty cool to try out. It was the first time I’ve ever tried, and if I had the opportunity I’d do it again."

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. "We hope to introduce more and more students to the many undergraduate research opportunities we offer at UAH," he says. "And if they end up coming here after they graduate based on their shadowing experience, then all the better!"


David Cook
Student Research Coordinator


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