By Sonia Hiew
On Sept. 15, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) hosted the Fall 2023 "Getting Into Research" event, a pivotal initiative by CSUN's HERE Center’s Badge Project, which is aimed at connecting transfer students with research opportunities from the outset.
Funded through the BUILD PODER grant, “Getting Into Research” has become a cornerstone for students looking to dive into the world of research early in their academic journey since its launch in 2018. This year, the event was co-sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and was open to all undergraduate students.
The biannual “Getting Into Research” event was held on September 15, 2023, at California State University, Northridge.
Amber Bui, Operations Manager at the HERE Center and event organizer, said the event was originally created to bridge the gap between research and transfer students at CSUN. She emphasized the urgency of introducing students to research opportunities early in their academic careers, especially transfer students who may be navigating a new educational landscape.
"We wanted to have this event very early in the fall semester because for a lot of transfer students coming into CSUN, there are a lot of resources they need to navigate and they're often overwhelmed," Bui said.
"Many transfer students come from historically marginalized communities, so unless their parents have graduated college or pursued grad school, the idea of graduate school and research is not as clear to students."
Bui added that many transfer students who are not exposed to research wait until their senior year to look into it.
Bui stressed that the event is designed to empower students.
"We want students to be exposed to the idea first and to try it out. It's never too early to look into getting involved in research, whether they know exactly what they want to do with research or whether research is something they want to pursue after they graduate from CSUN," Bui said.
The success of the event is evident in its growth over the years, with this year’s event drawing over 100 students from five colleges within CSUN.
A new addition to the event was a faculty mixer where students have the opportunity to meet with potential mentors and learn about their research through three rotations, akin to speed dating.
"The students seem engaged; many of them stayed throughout the entire duration of the event. They seem very enthusiastic about learning, especially during the mixer," Bui said.
For students like Sarah Manookian, a freshman biochemistry major at CSUN, the event was a gateway to a welcoming academic community.
"It was really nice. Everybody there was very professional and knew what they were talking about," Manookian said. "Coming from a small high school, I was scared to get into college, but it was very nice to see people from different backgrounds come together into one field of research."
Stephanie Drew, PhD, talks with students during the roundtable session at the "Getting Into Research" event.
The event not only left a lasting impression on students but also on staff.
Vanessa L. Martinez, EdD, a graduation and retention advising specialist for the College of Humanities at CSUN, attended the event with a keen interest in the opportunities it presented.
"I was inspired! I was excited! I've been here at CSUN for six years now, and I didn't even know that kind of thing existed. I wish more students were there," Martinez said. "I was mainly there to learn more about LAEP (Learning-Aligned in Employment Program). When I found out that students would have the opportunity to get paid to do research, and I could be a mentor to help guide them in the process, that was a huge thing for me."
LAEP is CSUN’s newest paid undergraduate research opportunity, launched in Summer 2023 by the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office in partnership with OUR and BUILD PODER. LAEP is a work-study program to expand paid research opportunities to all majors on campus and prepare students for the workforce.
As a first-generation college student, Martinez highlighted the significance of being introduced to the world of research early in her academic journey.
"I never knew that there was such an opportunity. In fact, I learned about research through my mentor, but I didn't have the opportunity to get paid to do the research. It was more about learning and them helping you understand [research] to prepare you for graduate school," she said.
Gabriela Chavira, PhD, inaugural director of CSUN’s new Office of Undergraduate Research, kicking off the event with an opening speech.
Gabriela Chavira, PhD, the inaugural director of OUR and one of the Principal Investigators for BUILD PODER, said “Getting Into Research” plays a critical role making sure that more students are aware of research opportunities at CSUN.
“Participating in undergraduate research is a high-impact practice that increases retention and graduation rates for students who are traditionally excluded from the sciences, including low–income and ethnically minoritized students,” Chavira said.
“Our goal is to increase undergraduate students’ awareness, interest, and participation in mentored research activities at CSUN.”
As CSUN continues to foster a culture of research and inclusivity, events like "Getting Into Research" stand out as crucial pillars in the university's commitment to student success and academic exploration.
The HERE Center's proactive approach to connecting students with research opportunities early on sets the stage for a bright and research-driven academic future for all Matadors.
SPAD & DPC DaTA
The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.