Baylor is BURSTing with student research opportunities

Baylor’s Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology (BURST) helps students build a community of knowledge and understanding. Photo courtesy of Ruhi Thapar

By Megan Hale | Reporter

Baylor’s Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology (BURST) is a student-run organization with the hopes of amplifying research opportunities and building a community of knowledge and understanding.

According to the BURST website, the organization provides a variety of resources to help students stay aware of current scientific research, explore their individual interests and develop skills that will aid them in their present as well as future endeavors.

“BURST serves to connect undergraduates to the research opportunities that Baylor has to offer both on and off campus and also educates members about research and how they can apply it in their future careers as physicians or scientists,” Houston junior and Scientia editor-in-chief Isha Thapar said. “It shows the importance that research doesn’t have to be a mundane activity but something really applicable to your future career that you can learn a lot from and grow from.”

BURST members participate in service opportunities, socials, workshops and more. They also have access to special university events such as URSA Scholars Week during the spring and Research Internship Day in the fall. These events allow members to share their own research findings with both their peers and faculty across campus.

“What makes BURST unique is that we are at the size where we can connect members to a lot of research opportunities and hear from really cool speakers and lecturers, but also small enough that we have an individual connection with our members,” Isha said.

Undergraduate students studying the STEM disciplines are encouraged to begin research as early as their freshman year. BURST seeks to act as a resource for students, supporting them through this transition.

“I feel like all of us at BURST feel like we played at least a part in the R1 research status by fostering research interests and encouraging students and just raising awareness in the student body,” Houston junior and BURST publicity chair Ruhi Thapar said.

One of the main ways BURST seeks to immerse students in the world of research is through the BURST Journal Clubs. These small-group discussion clubs, often led by upperclassmen, encourage members to exercise leadership and learn from their peers. Discussions can range from biology to epidemiology to psychology to ethics.

“We’ve found that people coming into college don’t have an understanding of how research works and how research articles work, and they have a hard time reading scientific literature because they don’t have exposure to it,” Chicago junior and vice president of BURST Journal Clubs Sanjana Ade said. “The literature can be very dense and very convoluted at times, so having these journal clubs helps people learn how to read journal articles and get used to that material.”

Developing the ability to understand scientific literature aids students not only in the classroom but also in their own pursuits of scientific discovery. Taking the skills learned in these journal clubs, BURST encourages students to practice communicating technical information through their own written work.

Scientia is a Baylor professional scientific research journal that provides students with a platform to publish their own undergraduate research. Every aspect of Scientia is student-run, including the writing, editing, design and final publication.

“Students edit the papers, and then we send them to a faculty review board for further editing, and then students completely design the publication,” Isha said. “The print is also funded by Student Government, so it’s really just a student publication. We want to give Baylor students who are conducting amazing research the opportunity to publish that research.”

According to the Scientia website, the vision of this publication is to promote awareness of student research, enhance research experiences and encourage students to explore various avenues of research.

“Anyone who’s curious about research is bound to find an interesting paper in Scientia that appeals to them,” Isha said.

Ruhi said she has gained not only research from BURST but also multiple types of connections.

“You have to be intentional about the communities you put yourself in, and I think that the communities and the people I’ve surrounded myself by have completely changed who I am and then, subsequently, who I’m going to be,” Ruhi said. “The connections I’ve gained professionally but also personally through BURST have given me more than just research.”