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FUSE: enhancing undergraduate research

2013 FUSE Meeting
Students describe their in-progress research projects to other members of the 2013 FUSE cohort while Dr. Miriam Segura-Totten (left) listens.

The Faculty-Undergraduate Summer Engagement (FUSE) program at the University of North Georgia enables students to engage in research projects and topics that are not typically addressed until the pursuit of advanced degrees. Dr. Miriam Segura-Totten, director of the university's Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA), talks about FUSE and how it involves students in research.

What does the FUSE program involve?

The FUSE program engages teams of UNG faculty and undergraduates in a serious, immersive eight-week research experience. Students in diverse fields, from visual arts and psychology to biology, are involved in the FUSE program this year.

What advantages does FUSE offer over normal coursework?

FUSE has several advantages. First, students work one-on-one with professors over the course of the summer, which is different from the classroom experience, where a single student may not have the constant, undivided attention of his or her professor. Experiences like FUSE build a deeper professor-student connection, which benefits students in many ways. One of those benefits is the ability of the professor to craft a powerful letter of recommendation for the next step in the student's career.

Secondly, students who engage in a summer research experience get a taste of what a career in their field of study entails. While students learn a lot of valuable theory in the classroom, they can actually apply this theory and contribute to it firsthand through experiences like FUSE. This hands-on research experience is important in defining students' long-term career goals while providing them with valuable work experience for their résumés.

Why are experiences like FUSE important to students who plan to perform graduate-level research?

Students who participate in intensive research experiences like FUSE can "hit the ground running" when they engage in graduate-level research, because they will have overcome many of the hurdles associated with shifting from the student mentality to the researcher mentality as undergraduates. This will help them to be more successful within a graduate program.

Also, FUSE enables a deep and meaningful professor-student relationship to develop through an in-depth research experience. Graduate programs deeply value professors' opinions of a student's aptitude for graduate work, as evidenced in letters of recommendation that are part of the graduate school application package. Because the FUSE faculty mentor will have a solid foundation from which to draw when recommending their mentee, FUSE students will have a definite advantage over students who have not collaborated with a faculty mentor in this way.

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