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UM Undergraduate Researchers Visit Capitol

Legislators, UM President learn about diverse research at all four campuses

Some of the state’s most inquisitive minds gathered March 1 for the University of Missouri System’s annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Jefferson City.

A total of 46 students from the university’s four campuses discussed their work with their local legislators and other visitors. Each student was selected in a competitive process and recommended by his or her campus, including 20 from the MU campus; two from UMKC; 15 from Missouri S&T; and nine from UMSL.

The students showcased their research from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, biochemistry, computer science and the plant sciences. In addition to visits from their legislators, students also described their work to new UM System President Tim Wolfe, who spent the morning checking out their research posters on display in the Capitol rotunda.

“No other public higher education institution in the state provides undergraduate students with the breadth and depth of research opportunities as the UM System,” he said. “All told, we account for 94 percent of all research under way in public higher education institutions across the state.  Not only does this expose students to the wonders and possibilities of research, and the importance of discovering ‘new knowledge,’ it also helps develop them as future scientists and budding entrepreneurs whose work one day could result in new businesses and more jobs, as well as improve the quality of life for our fellow citizens.”

Some of the research topics presented at Research Day included improving public health education for HIV; more efficient crop breeding; and developing portable intranet capabilities.

“What we saw here is the beginning of ideas that could lead to important solutions to issues we face every day,” said Mike Nichols, UM System vice president for research and economic development. “Our university is fortunate to have one of the nation’s most robust and diverse research programs, offering both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to test their ideas in real-world settings.”

Nichols noted that the vast majority of U.S. research—approaching nearly 90 percent—is done in higher education settings—a switch from the latter part of the 20th century, when most research was undertaken by American companies.

In an effort to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, the UM System in 2010 granted students the rights to their intellectual property developed while enrolled in one of the University of Missouri System’s campuses.  Unlike many other universities, students may own any copyrightable or patentable works developed during their enrollment as a student and are not required to assign their ownership to the University.

Research has been a part of the mission of the University of Missouri since it became a land-grant university more than 150 years ago.

Although research initially focused primarily on agriculture and applied engineering, the scope of work done across the system’s four campuses today is as broad as one’s imagination, Nichols said.

Across the four campuses of the University of Missouri System, research funding continues to increase.

Last year, the University of Missouri totaled $330 million in research expenditures—monies primarily coming from outside the state but spent within Missouri, thus creating more jobs.

Learn more about some of the undergraduate researchers:

Aver Yakubu, University of Missouri-Columbia

Angela Gutierrez, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Joseph Kurtz, Missouri University of Science and Technology

Patrilie Hernandez, University of Missouri-St. Louis