UW Retirement Association

Program Focus: Undergraduate Research Program

URPMost preeminent research universities have two primary goals: produce cutting-edge research and educate undergraduate students. To some these can appear to be competing goals. In the mid-1990’s the University of Washington began identify ways to  into mutually beneficial endeavors. The birth of the Undergraduate Research Program (URP) and the Undergraduate Research Symposium was a result.

One of the first to identify a way to unite research and teaching was Janice DeCosmo, now Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. The undergraduates she was teaching as a research assistant professor for Earth and Space Sciences were thirsty for hands-on learning experiences. Janice approached UW researchers through the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium (WSCG) to see if they could make use of some eager undergraduates during the summer. Some agreed to mentor an undergraduate. That experiment went so well that WSGC researchers were enthusiastic about getting students for the next summer. A bridge between research and teaching was being built.

At about the same time the Mary Gates Endowment for Students was established. Dedicated exclusively to undergraduates, the endowment provides funding for four kinds of scholarships including research. At the end of the 1997-98 academic year, 70 urp_31 SmallMary Gates research scholarship recipients gathered to present the research on which they had worked. The following year Fred Campbell, now Dean Emeritus of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and Janice began to construct the framework for the  Undergraduate Research Program.

Today through the URP, undergraduates find research opportunities posted by researchers on a URP database. Students get hands-on experience and researchers get bright, eager minds to assist with their projects. At last year’s 20th annual URP symposium, more than 1200 students from all fields of study presented their work proving that research and teaching can come together in exciting ways.

For more information about the Undergraduate Research Program and ways that you can get involved please contact us at uwencore@uw.edu.