Campus Features

Campus awards first Certificate of Undergraduate Research

1/23/2014  8:00 am

Jennifer Merritt’s mind was racing as she prepared to graduate last fall. She was working part-time in the lab of Professor Justin Rhodes and trying to maintain high grades. She was working hard to graduate in December, a semester early. She was hoping her research experience would be an asset when she began applying to jobs and graduate programs.

image of jennifer merritt 

Then she received an email from the Office of Undergraduate Research. They were offering a Certificate of Undergraduate Research for the first time. The recognition’s aim was to highlight students who make research central to their education at Illinois. After scanning the list, Merritt realized she had already completed all of the necessary requirements: presenting original research, research coursework, attending a workshop or presentation. So she applied and was accepted.

Now, as Merritt is applying to graduate programs across the country, she’s glad to have an indicator of her dedication to scholarly research.

“The best thing about Illinois is that we have so many research experts in so many different fields willing to work with undergraduate students,” she said. “That opportunity is so rare and special. It’s nice to have a certificate to show that experience.”

Currently, Merritt’s research interests are in genetic and hormonal modulation of cognitive and social behavior. Specifically, she’s interested in the way hormones send signals and affect memory performance. After enjoying her work in the Rhodes lab, Merritt is hoping to work in academia and, someday, have a lab of her own.

The Certificate of Undergraduate Research is meant to help students create a framework by which the university recognizes student achievement in undergraduate research. Paul Diehl, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said he hopes the certificate will help show how vital undergraduate research is to the Illinois mission.

“As a world class university, the focus is often on faculty or graduate student researchers who are recognized for their innovation and accomplishments,” he said. “Yet many of our 30,000+ undergraduates are engaged in exciting research projects as well. This new Undergraduate Research Certificate highlights the important contributions undergraduates make to the university and recognizes them as scholars."

For full requirements, please visit the website for the Office of Undergraduate Research

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