Undergraduate Research on the Rise

Undergraduate Research on the Rise

More and more undergraduates at The University of Alabama are leveling up their educational journey by getting involved in research.

The University is an incubator for leading-edge research, with many opportunities for students to work with faculty members to advance knowledge. And students are reaping the benefits of engaging in research, no matter their major.

For Bailey Liddle, a management and information systems major, her interest in research started with her involvement in the Randall Research Scholars program.

“We are required to do ten hours of research a week. Originally, it was just a requirement and something that I found interesting, but after getting involved with research, I plan on doing it well after my requirements are fulfilled,” Liddle explained.

“It has exposed me to numerous skill sets as well as career opportunities that I never knew existed before beginning my research. My professors are amazing, and I have truly enjoyed the process of creating new knowledge.”

Career exploration and opportunities are major benefits for other students, too, like Andrew Fickel.

“My main motivations for involvement in undergraduate research are the future implications and benefits in my career. As a pre-medicine student, it is very important to understand the research process as it has massive implications in the field of medicine,” he said.

“Gaining hands-on experience as an undergraduate student allows me to be more familiar with the research process and its many intricacies. My specific lab, the TERM (Technology, Education, and Research in Medicine) Lab, allows me to participate in research through the lens of medicine and grants me a unique perspective of the entire medical field.” 

a professor instructs a student on research projects in a lab
Carter Pate (right), a computer engineering major worked with Dr. Aijun Song (left) in his lab on a project that explores wireless communications for autonomous underwater vehicles. Read about their experiences with undergraduate research.

More than 550 students participated in this year’s Undergraduate Research Creative Activity conference, which included 406 presentations on topics from human performance and nutrition to apparel and textiles.

That number has rapidly grown in recent years. In 2022, URCA had 271 abstracts selected for participation and 310 in 2023.

The 2024 winning presentations covered a variety of topics across nine categories.

Presenting on research topics isn’t the only way UA students are engaging in research. There are currently nine student-run research publications that also serve as an avenue for students to showcase their research.

Some of the growth can be attributed to efforts to make these opportunities known.

“Students know that our office exists now and they realize that opportunities are available to students in all majors/departments,” said Leanne Carroll of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “Since our office moved to the Capstone Center for Student Success, we are more visible to incoming, new and current students.”

To reach more students OUR has gotten more active in student events like Get on Board Day, spoken at student meetings and partnered closely with two new student organizations — Alabama Undergraduate Research Association, AURA, and Higher Education Assembly for Research in Tuscaloosa, HEART. Jana Venable, OUR program coordinator, serves as advisor to AURA and Carroll serves as the advisor to HEART.

Students can present and discuss their research at the annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Conference.

The uptick in undergraduate research has not gone unnoticed and leaders are working to meet the needs that will arise.

“I think all areas of research are on the rise. I believe that this was happening anyway, but the impending changes to the Core Curriculum in 2025, which will require that students have experiential learning seem to be helping them to grow at a faster rate,” Carroll said.

“Undergraduate research is one of the most accessible learning opportunities for students because they don’t have to leave campus. It also benefits their résumé, as well as their academic profile.”

Riley Nold agreed that undergraduate research goes far beyond the lab.

“As a physics major with plans for graduate school, involvement in research is an important part of my career development. The UA Physics Department has had a strong tradition of undergraduate research, encouraging undergraduates of all experience levels to get involved,” he said. 

Personally, undergraduate research helped clarify my field of interest, experimental condensed matter physics, and gave me laboratory skills to succeed in this area after college.” 

Carroll said OUR hopes to one day foster that desire from students to engage in research more.

“Students would love the opportunity to do their own independent research projects. However, access to funding, space in the labs, etc. prohibits many undergraduate students from doing completely independent research projects,” she said.

Dig deeper into the research opportunities for undergraduates and beyond by visiting the ORED website.


Jennifer Brady, UA Strategic Communications, jennifer.brady@ua.edu