The Opportunity Research Scholars Program (ORS) is an innovative program for ECE students interested in an extended undergraduate research experience. This program takes a team-based approach and matches 3-4 undergraduates with a PhD mentor to work on a research project. Students must commit to the team for two-consecutive semesters, attend academic enrichment workshops, engage in team-building activities and participate in a research poster competition at the end of spring semester.
From the Founder
In 2002, I was a recipient of an initiative from the Intel Foundation to design a retention program for underrepresented students with financial need. The initiative mandated that undergraduate research would be at the heart of the program. With a small grant from Intel and a background in educational research, I gladly accepted the challenge to develop a model for retention and academic success, which would be based on well-documented studies that consistently confirm the relationship between student “engagement” and academic success. Student “engagement” typically refers to educational activities that occur outside the classroom and focus on experiences that promote interaction with faculty, mentoring relationships and collaborative learning. The model that would evolve advances all three of these experiences through a structured team-based undergraduate research and mentoring program.
That initial gift was the foundation for what is now the Opportunity Research Scholars Program (ORS), which first consisted of 10 undergraduates, 4 PhD mentors and 3 faculty advisors. For the 2015-16 program, there were 72 undergraduates, 22 teams and PhD mentors and 20 faculty advisors. As the size of the program expanded, so did the mission. Now the teams are comprised of a rich mix of participants that extends far beyond the original target. During those first years, it became clear that the structure provided by ORS would be benefit all students to position themselves to the best of their ability for graduate school or industry careers. Thus, all electrical and computer engineering students are eligible to apply to ORS regardless of financial need or demographics (although approximately 50% of all ORS undergraduates are underrepresented or female.)
ORS successfully provides programming that supports the academic, social, and professional development of ECE undergraduate students through experiences that encourage innovative thinking, collaboration and technical communication. The model combines a structured team- based undergraduate research experience, PhD student mentorship, skill based workshops and deliverables and project based research to help students be competitive contenders for graduate school admission and career opportunities. ORS is made possible by generous industry funding, support from the School of ECE, dedicated staff and faculty advisors who are committed to undergraduate research.