As ACU expands, students continue to have more of an opportunity to prepare and present research on campus.
Every year students present their research on campus at the Undergraduate Research Festival but in order to do so students must prepare their research months in advance.
Dr. Candice Ortbals, director of undergraduate research and professor of political science, encourages students to start thinking about research projects in the fall to present to the judges in the spring semester.
“A lot of people who work with undergraduate research suggest that the projects you do in the fall are the ones that you then present in the spring,” Ortbals said.
For some social science research projects, students must get approval from the office of research and sponsored programs to be able to do research with human participants, Ortbals said.
“The laws in terms of how you do research with human subjects, if you are just doing it for the class for educational purposes you can say ‘Hey I interviewed this person’ in a class presentation and you can tell your results but you can’t tell your results in public venues if ACU hasn’t reviewed how you are going to treat the human subjects,” Ortbals said.
Ortbals encourages students from her role to think about what they are working on now within their classes or what they can ask a professor about now to bring it towards completion.
Students can find research projects to use to present through class assignments or even talking to a professor about opportunities to participate in research projects.
“As a professor, I know that probably different professors encourage students to participate in different ways in terms of how they bring students into their research process,” Ortbals said.
“I do it in a couple different ways. I often assign papers that could turn into research presentations either at conferences for academics or conferences for undergraduates or for the research festival we have in the spring on campus.”
Students are encouraged to view their assignments for the upcoming semesters for possible research projects.
“From a students perspective, you are looking for those types of papers and classes or you can just go up to a professor and say ‘are you working on anything where I might tag along and do something to help,’” Ortbals said.
Research projects that are presented can help students get into graduate school and receive letters of recommendation from professors after the research is done.
“To me what’s meaningful is when you do research with someone, you spend a lot of time with them and see how responsible they are, their people skills and the way they take care of tasks,” Ortbals said.
“I feel like the students I research with I know them on par as how I know some of my colleagues so when I write those letters there is no shortage of examples of how talented the person is.”
“I think it is much more than the line on the CV, I think it is the relationship you form with your professor and the letter of recommendation they can write because they walk you through that process,” Ortbals said.
“Research is more than getting good grades in classes. The research experience kind of shows that level of independent thinking that is going to be really important for people looking for jobs in the future.”
Ortbals also encourages students to apply for a travel grant if they want their research to be presented at different conferences in the United States, however professors must apply for the student. (https://blogs.acu.edu/uresearch/urci-student-travel-grants/)
Hannah Maniscalo, senior political science major from Spring, presented at the Midwest Political Science Association on violence against conservative women in politics alongside Alli Dimmitt, senior political science major from Naples, Florida.
“It originated from a class I was taking,” Maniscalo said. “Finding a topic wasn’t difficult because Dr. Orbtals gave us areas to look into. The original plan wasn’t to present the paper but Alli and I were interested in taking the project further.”
Maniscalo and Dimmitt had a lot of guidance and meetings with Orbtals on the research project following the request to take the project further.
During the trip to Chicago, Maniscalo was also able to meet academics who she previously made relationships with on past research projects.
Research allows students to meet other people outside of ACU, Maniscalo said.
“Research challenges students to look at real world problems and consider solutions,” Maniscalo said.“It’s exciting to get to become an expert on a specialized topic.”
The Undergraduate Research Festival will return to campus April 16, 2024, and studnets are encouraged to start looking at topics this semester.