The Daily Illini

Office of Undergraduate Research searches for new director

By Samantha Jones Toal

But, Miranda Dawson said she knows her work as an undergraduate researcher is important. Which is why the Office of Undergraduate Research is looking for a new director to continue aiding students’ studies.

Dawson, sophomore in Engineering, participates in undergraduate research that studies breast cancerbr.

She said the opportunity has strengthened her ties with her professor and allows her to make connections between content learned in class and research.

“It’s very motivating to see the real-life application of material learned in class,” said Dawson.

The University is seeking a new director for the Office of Undergraduate Research following the retirement of former director, Paul Diehl. Diehl was appointed as the first director of the Office of Undergraduate Research in August 2012br.

The search for the new director began about a month ago, said Peter Mortensen, head of the search committee for the new director and associate professor in Englishbr.

The major duties and responsibilities of the new director will include the creation of programs that encourage collaboration between students and faculty on research.

Additionally, the new director will be responsible for the general coordination of research efforts across campus, according to the Office of Undergraduate Research’s website.

“I think in practice the director really serves as a working agent or someone that creates a network across the campus for particular units or programs that don’t have official support for undergraduate research beyond an independent study,” said Karen Rodriguez’G, interim director of the Office of Undergraduate Researchbr.

She said that under the former director, the office aimed to incorporate undergraduate research in its curriculum and develop a model that would interest department units.

“Working together, Dr. Diehl and Dr. Rodriguez’G really were able to create an office that is known by faculty across campus as a resource to support undergraduate research in academic units,” Mortensen said.

The deadline for applications is Oct. 27. After all of the applications are received, the search committee will discuss the pool of applicants but Mortensen said he could discuss how many people are being considered.

“We’re approaching the search with an open mind,” he said. “It’s a big campus and we want to make sure that, first of all, we begin our consideration with an applicant pool that is as large and diverse as it can be because we are a large and diverse campus. Then we’ll go from there and weigh the merits of the individual as we go along.”

Mortensen said that it will be important to have a tenured faculty member in the office. It would be useful because that person can capitalize on their existing network of academic connections.

“I would say that it’s important to build on the momentum Dr. Diehl and Dr. Rodriguez’G

created together working last year in the office,” he said.

After the search committee agrees on a few applicants, it will pass its recommendations on to Charles Tucker, vice provost for undergraduate education and innovation who will make the final decision.

Mortensen said the committee aims to have somebody in place before the spring semester.

“Going forward, what we hope to do is really to continue to build relationships and partnerships across campus because that’s a significant support for what we do,” Rodriguez’G said.

Like Dawson, Alex Villanuevabr, junior in LAS, values the importance of undergraduate research opportunities at the University.

“If the (Office of Undergraduate Research) is not headed by a well-rounded and outspoken proponent of research in all fields, then the University’s goal of producing stellar undergraduates and future scholars is at risk,” said Villanueva.

Until Oct. 27, the committee only knows what they hope to expect.

“We recognize that we had a great deal of success with an office where everybody in it was part of a cohesive working team and we’re hoping to provide Karen with a great teammate so they can continue to do the hard work of promoting and supporting undergraduate research across campus,” Mortensen said.

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