Engage in independent research through your major and through programs especially developed for summer research
Funding provided by the Fellowship in the Natural Sciences (FINS) and the Undergraduate Research Council’s Summer Scholar Stipends allows students to conduct mentored research. The Healthy Appalachia Institute (HAI), a partnership between the College and the University of Virginia, supports student fellows in conducting research on health issues in the region as well as participating in global health research with UVA’s Center for Global Health.
Students receiving FINS, Summer Scholar Stipends, or HAI Fellowships are required to present their research at public forums during the following year. They are also encouraged to submit abstracts for the various symposia held in the spring.
Research Day held each spring offers these students a forum in which to present the results of their research. A student research symposium with member colleges of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) provides additional opportunities. Through these efforts and others, the College honors its commitment to the liberal arts, enhancing and expanding our students’ education through experiential learning.
Fellowship in the Natural Sciences (FINS)
Learning about science in a classroom can never match the excitement and fun of working in a lab or in the field. Formulating a question, engaging fully with your work, reading what other scientists have to say about your subject, experiencing the thrill of learning something new about the universe, something no one else in the world has ever learned — these are the kinds of things students experience in a lab, especially a research lab, which they can never experience in a classroom. The Department of Natural Sciences began the FINS (Fellowship in the Natural Sciences) program in 2002 with the goal of providing opportunities for our students to fully engage in the scientific endeavor in the same manner as professional scientists.
FINS students choose a project in collaboration with a faculty mentor and submit an application to the program. Application is competitive, and students who are chosen receive a $3,000 stipend for the summer. In exchange, they agree to spend 10 weeks working on their research project, and to give a public seminar describing their project. We also encourage them to present their results at regional scientific meetings and at undergraduate research conferences. The students who participate learn skills, but more importantly they begin to see the beauty and power of science.
To support and enhance the College’s emphasis on the value of mentored student research, the Undergraduate Research Council (URC) founded Research Day in spring 2018. A day when all classes are canceled, this forum for those engaging in independent research allows students to present their work to their peers and to the faculty in a conference setting. Joining them, UVA Wise faculty also present their most recent research, modeling scholarly behavior and giving students the opportunity to see what types of inquiry their instructors are carrying out.
Explaining their research and the results before an engaged audience is an exciting event for undergraduates, and one which encourages them to continue their work. The members of the URC believe that Research Day not only provides students with an experience that will be valuable to them when applying to and attending graduate or professional schools, but it will also be a stimulus to other students to involve themselves in research.
In the years since its inception, this event has been remarkably successful. On the first Research Day in 2018 there were 20 papers and 17 posters presented in the humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences. Thirteen faculty also presented. The following year, 2019, the number of participants increased with 37 papers and 20 posters. In this second year creative activities were included.
Research Day culminates each year with a reception celebrating the work that student researchers have done.