BURST seeks to help undergrad research methods

By Linda Wilkins
Staff Writer

A student organization called Baylor Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology (BURST) is answering Baylor’s call to improve undergraduate research.

Though the group is still in the process of establishing its constitution and receiving approval, BURST’s main goal is to “educate people involved with science and technology, engineering and math about the process of research,” Wichita junior and BURST president Taylor Kohn said.

BURST is a student organization that embraces helping undergraduate students learn better ways to conduct research.

“It is a very active initiative,” Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, said. “It’s always good when students take control. It gives [the organization] life, and the students have ownership.”

A key importance of BURST is the fact it can increase faculty and student interactions, Rockwall, junior Gregg Fox said. Fox, a biology major, is a founding member of BURST.

Hyde said he was pleased with the opportunity this group would give students to work with faculty members “closer than in a classroom.”

BURST also will potentially help students when they transition to a graduate school, Kohn said.

“Graduate schools want to see that you know how to do research it,” Kohn said.

Kohn said he hopes BURST will promote an environment of research by hosting different lecturers who can talk about how to research and why research is important. The first lecture will be at the group’s first meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 in B110 Baylor Sciences Building.

Dr. Edward Burger, vice provost for strategic educational initiatives and the 2010 Robert Foster Cherry Award winner, will be the speaker.

The lectures at future meetings will focus more on the practical methods of compiling research and will not necessarily be field-related. Kohn said whether it is a poster project, an abstract or a diagram, these lectures will attempt to engage and educate students about how to successfully compile their research.

“No class teaches this,” Kohn said. “This is a good opportunity for practical tools.”

By next spring, Kohn said the group hopes to have an undergraduate journal on a website for students to access and publish their work.

He said the website will “really help since there is an administrative push for undergraduate journals.”

In addition, the organization could be a way for undergraduates to obtain scholarships for research, Fox said.

Kohn said he is “top to bottom excited” about BURST, and several other students and faculty members have expressed interest in the group’s potential.

These faculty members include Dr. Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College, and Dr. Susan Bratton, a professor of environmental studies and director of the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement initiative. Bratton is also the faculty adviser to BURST.

“Baylor hopes to provide undergraduates with critical thinking and imagination,” Bratton said. “They need an undergraduate research experience.”

Bratton said BURST is important because it “enriches scholarly environment and it is run by and for undergraduates.”

The creation of BURST potentially means more undergraduates can be aware of research opportunities, which would include the chance for them to present research and interact with the results of research, Bratton said.

Bratton also called the formation of BURST “very timely.”

Top undergraduate institutions have organizations like BURST, Bratton said, and “it is time we had similar support for our students.”