There is a difference between earning a degree and getting an education. A fantastic way to graduate with both an enhanced understanding of your field and practical experience is to perform research as an undergraduate student. Research performed in a structured laboratory or research course is not the same as intellectually collaborating with a faculty mentor on an investigation that will make an original creative or intellectual contribution to your field.
Why perform research as an undergraduate? As mentioned above, a research experience greatly enriches your undergraduate education. Student researchers are stretched intellectually and sharpen their problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. They read the primary literature and become an expert in a topic within their field. Student researchers also get to know a faculty member and have the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. A strong letter of recommendation from a research mentor who has worked closely with a student is much more valuable than one from a course instructor. Undergraduate researchers also have the opportunity to investigate their personal interests, develop marketable skills, and explore a high-level career. Finally, research lays the foundations for the next step in a student's personal and professional development, and opens the doors to graduate education, professional programs, or competitive first-time jobs.
Here at UTSA, there are a number of mechanisms for gaining research experience. These include, but are not limited to, the UTSA Honors College, College and Departmental Honors, Volunteering, Independent Study, Year-Round Research Programs, and Summer Research Opportunities.
Depending on your field, there may also be short term (generally summer) research internships found in town, throughout the country, and even throughout the world. NOTE: Most of these pay you, rather than you having to pay them, and some will even pay for a summer course at their institution. Click here for information on these these extramural opportunities.
Note on Animal Research and the Biosciences: The animals used in research at UTSA, mostly small vertebrates such as mice and rats, are treated exceptionally well. Some research laboratories at UTSA work with animals and some do not, depending on the questions that are being explored in the lab. Experimental models used at UTSA in the biosciences also include plants, bacteria, fungi, cultured cell lines, and even computer modeling of biochemical pathways. If you have an aptitude for research, don't count yourself out because you don't want to use animals...just choose a field that requires a different experimental model!