UW professors aren't just making a big difference to graduate students. Currently, 24 percent of graduating seniors report having had some experience in research at the UW. Since he took the helm in 1995, President Richard L. McCormick has emphasized the need to involve more undergraduates in research.
While the emphasis is relatively new, undergrads have been involved in research for years. For instance, a summer program supported by the NASA Space Grant Program, the Mary Gates Foundation and faculty research grants has given practical science experience for 176 undergraduates since it began in 1993. Four undergraduates recently accompanied two geography professors for a 17-day cruise between Seattle and Hawaii to study subtropical oceans and how they absorb greenhouse gasses.
David Salesin, a professor of computer science and engineering, is well known for regularly involving undergraduates in his cutting-edge research projects and having them co-author papers in prestigious journals.
"I try to get undergraduates involved in every part of the research process, from planning to implementing what we do, to collecting the results and writing and presenting the papers," Salesin says. "They're a huge part of this success." The success is phenomenal. Salesin who joined the UW faculty in 1992 and is also a winner of the UW Distinguished Teaching Award, had an astonishing total of eight papers accepted for publication at a 1996 conference. Four were co-authored by undergraduates.
"Having facts and information is useful, but the idea of research is really the discovery process," says Robert Steiner, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the UW School of Medicine, who has included undergrads in his work for 20 years. Steiner won a UW Distinguished Teaching Award in 1996.
While the University is renowned for its world-class research and attracts more research money from the federal government than any other public institution in the U.S., this kind of research power has its detractors. Critics say faculty concentrate more on research than undergraduate students.
"I want a student who completes a degree at the University of Washington not only to have heard lectures from faculty who are outstanding in research and other practices but to have an opportunity to engage with them in area of their work," McCormick recently said in an address to the University community.
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