Awards program fosters undergraduate researchers
Nominations for the 2019 Undergraduate Research Awards (URA) are now open. The program, dubbed Experience Research, provides undergraduate U of M students to be mentored with researchers in all disciplines of study. Deadline for applications is January 25.
What follows is a story that first appeared in the mentoring themed issue of TeachingLIFE about the impact of the URA on a past student recipient.
A mentor’s role is to listen and ask questions, exchange stories, expand the mentee’s network and encourage them to identify their strengths and areas for improvement. Psychology professor Kristin Reynolds says the excellent mentorship she received as a student definitely helped guide her to her current work, including a focus on health information access and literacy. She now passes that experience on to students such as Teaghan Pryor, a fourth year honours psychology student who is a member of Reynolds’ Health Information Exchange Lab and a recipient of a 2017 Undergraduate Research Award (URA). The summer program allows students to be mentored with a professor of their choice for 16 weeks.
Pryor explains how mentoring differs from teaching. “It involves investing time and effort in a one-on-one relationship,” she says.
“Rather than just learning in a classroom, Dr. Reynolds shares her knowledge with me in hands-on research situations. I can ask as many questions as I need and I learn in a way that is guided by me.”
The work supported by the award included the creation and evaluation of an information tool for late-life depression. The decision-aiding tool provides clear and concise information and resources for older adults, and those that are close to them, to help them make informed decisions about treatment options.
Pryor was the lead research assistant for the project. She was given the opportunity to collaborate with faculty from multidisciplinary backgrounds and other student researchers. She conducted literature reviews, created content for the tool and co-facilitated focus groups with health professionals. She gained not only practical research experience but also received valuable feedback and insight as she built critical thinking and leadership skills.
The URA is a very beneficial program, agrees Reynolds. It “gave me the opportunity to work with a highly-qualified student who helped move my research forward.”
And, she notes that undergraduate students are keen to get involved. “It’s extremely important to foster this early passion and enthusiasm, and provide occasions for skill-building and professional development that will help students develop as people, researchers and potentially assist in the pursuit of their career paths,” she says.
What’s next for Pryor? She says that her mentee experience has created a path for her.
“Dr. Reynolds’ dedication to her field and support for me has inspired me to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology or counselling and hopefully continue into research as a career,” she says.