RISE supports undergraduate research, creativity

SUNY Oswego, moving to increase already substantial opportunities for student research and creative projects, has established an office to provide support and pique student interest in hands-on, faculty-mentored work.

Dr. Diana Boyer, an earth sciences faculty member and director of the Office of Research and Individualized Student Experiences (RISE), said the office aims to encourage and enable student scholarly work, internships and conference travel.

Diana Boyer working with students.Personal experience tells Boyer this will pay dividends in student engagement, research and other academic skills, graduate school readiness and appeal to employers, she said.

“When I was in high school, I was given an amazing opportunity to work with a faculty member at Penn State, where I’m from,” said Boyer, who had a budding interest in paleontology. “I did a research project. I went out into the field, collected fossils, did the lab work, presented at a regional conference—and from that moment on I was hooked.”

RISE, headquartered in the SUNY Oswego Campus Center, can help students start a mentored research or artistic project, assist with funding and research travel through the college’s Scholarly and Creative Activities Committee and search for outside funding.

“I understand how important and how powerful these experiences can be for students,” Boyer said. “Maybe it’s a bit of a pay-it-forward kind of thing, but I do feel very strongly about these opportunities, and we have a huge number of faculty on campus who are willing and excited and love to work with students.”

Summer projects

Boyer, who has students working with her under an American Chemical Society grant, noted that RISE-administered grants for Summer Scholars to assist professors with research improved last year, supplying not only a stipend but also housing. More than $67,000 in funds supported 17 projects.

“We’ve really worked hard to make these accessible and to make it so students can stay here and participate,” she said. “We feel they are that important.”

Undergraduates have pursued a wide variety of research interests, from robotic telescope software development to diabetes prevention in the Congo, from wetlands ecology in Brazil to creating musical and artistic works.

Samuel Hewitt, a senior meteorology major and mathematics minor, said Distinguished Service Professor Al Stamm invited him to apply to attend the National Center for Atmospheric Research Undergraduate Leadership Workshop in Boulder in June, citing the potential for RISE financial assistance for travel.

“The help was great,” said Hewitt, who is working on data simulation for global climate modeling. “I’m more interested in the research aspect of atmospheric science. Almost all of the students there (at the Colorado conference) want to go on to advanced studies. It basically got us really excited to go to graduate school.”

Boyer said RISE also supported three students attending the National Association of School Psychologists conference this year in Philadelphia, and sent a recent computer science and applied mathematics graduate to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Ogden, Utah.

Donor support

In addition to outside grants, funding has come from SUNY Oswego, often donor-supported: faculty grants; awards affiliated with Quest, the college’s day to celebrate faculty, staff and student scholarly and creative activity; funds for student travel to professional conferences; Rice Creek Field Station small grants and more. In all, Oswego’s Scholarly and Creative Activities Committee last year recommended 23 grants for faculty and students totaling about $96,500.

Boyer emphasized that RISE’s mission is to promote hands-on experiences for all students, not just high-GPA ones or those in the hard sciences. “I hope to create a culture that will only come through time,” she said. “I think one of my main goals in RISE is to promote the breadth of the experiences—not just the sciences, but in the arts, the School of Business and across campus. I’m hoping to slowly increase awareness.

“I think there are a lot of students on campus who would be keen to participate in research activities, but just aren’t aware that they can,” Boyer added. “They’re available to all academic levels and abilities, not just honors and seniors. Find your interest, find a faculty member—we can help enable that.”

For more information, visit www.oswego.edu/rise or email rise@oswego.edu.

(Posted: Sep 12, 2012)