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Undergrad research mentors & students get creative during COVID-19 closures

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of research projects not affiliated with infectious disease research have halted. But, this doesn’t mean students are unable to engage with research. Richard Andreatta, PhD, FASHA, director of undergraduate research for the UK College of Health Sciences, shares how students can keep their science skills sharp while labs are closed.    

There are an abundance of research opportunities available for undergraduate students at the UK College of Health Sciences. From muscle biology, to physical therapy, to communication sciences and disorders studies, options within the undergraduate research program are varied and open to students in any college.

Although the date for on-campus labs re-opening is tentative, roughly 80 undergraduate students involved in research experiences are finding creative ways to remain active in their current projects while still receiving credit.

“This is the perfect time for students to enhance their literature review skills,” Andreatta said. “The literature review is an essential part of any research project. Data analysis is also something that’s easy to do in a remote setting. If students have access to their body of data, much of this work can be done online.”

One of the most valuable aspects of research is hands-on instruction between students and their faculty mentors. Through the video-conferencing platform, Zoom, Andreatta says students are still able to meet with their mentors to keep communication as authentic as possible.

“Meetings and journal clubs have moved online to keep consistent interaction among the members of the lab,” Andreatta said. “Discussion is key whether it occurs online or face-to-face. It’s important that continual conversation about their science is still happening.”

Faculty supervisors and mentors have become exceptionally creative to keep motivated students engaged. “Some faculty are recording themselves doing work in the lab and sending videos to students so they can still learn different procedures," Andreatta said. "It’s important we create as many different experiences as possible to help our students and capture their interest while teaching remotely.”

Andreatta is excited about student enthusiasm to stay involved virtually with research. “I have heard from almost all of our students and they are eager to stay engaged,” he said. “It really speaks to the quality of mentorship provided by our faculty that students are so motivated to remain active in their research work despite the limitations imposed by this crisis.”

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