New OU class offers research opportunities
A biology sophomore will be working very closely with scorpions next fall as a result of OU’s new undergraduate research initiative.
Randall Proctor, a sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida, will be conducting research to investigate hairs on the legs of scorpions and their role in water detection.
Proctor grew interested in research while taking Introduction to Zoology with biology professor Doug Gaffin, Proctor said. Gaffin told Proctor about a class with the University College called Research Sooner!, which introduces students to research at OU and prepares them to begin the research process.
After taking the University College course, Proctor approached Gaffin about researching alongside him in his study of scorpions, Proctor said. Thus, in fall 2013, Proctor will begin his study of scorpion leg hair’s role in water detection with Gaffin as his mentor.
The Research Sooner! course, offered exclusively to freshmen in the fall and opened to all students in the spring, is part of a broader undergraduate research initiative at OU called UResearch, said Joy Pendley, OU Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Coordinator. UResearch is a new system of assistance and support to help undergraduate students conduct research.
“There are huge pockets of vibrant undergraduate research happening all over OU, and the Honors College has always been responsible for whatever organization that has happened on campus,” Pendley said. “But, undergraduate research is for all students, not just honors students.”
OU undergraduate students involved in research are doing the work of professionals, Pendley said. They’re published in peer-reviewed journals in disciplines ranging from dance, to biology.
During discussions about creating the undergraduate research support system, a team of faculty members from various departments came together and voiced concern that students were not finding out early enough about research opportunities, Pendley said.
The aim of UResearch is to encourage students to consider research before their senior capstone courses, which usually largely consist of research, Pendley said.
In addition to the Research Sooner! course, UResearch offers various workshops, information sessions and advising for students interested in beginning research or for undergraduates already involved in research, Pendley said.
In Proctor’s case, it was his curiosity and motivation that lead him to his study of miniscule scorpions hairs, but it was the UResearch class that gave him the experience and tools he needed to take the first steps on the road to research, Proctor said.
“For me, I knew the basics of Dr. Gaffin’s research, but I never actually went into his lab to actually see what it is he does,” Proctor said. “When we went to his lab for a [Research Sooner!] session, I had a bunch of ideas come to mind. I talked to him more, went on his website and read articles that I was interested in and came up with a research topic. So, the road started with lab visits through the Research course with Joy.”