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What it means to study at a top tier research university

A letter from Professor Emeritus Robert Bates, director of the office of research and graduate education.

To the students of WSU Vancouver:

When I meet students interested in research, I am reminded of the time when I was an undergraduate student at Lewis and Clark College. I was eager to get my first big break to do innovative research. That break came when I was a graduate student at Washington State University studying bacteriology and public health, which led to a 30-year career as a faculty member at Virginia Tech. Today, I get to help undergraduate and graduate students connect to research opportunities on the WSU Vancouver campus.

WSU Vancouver is a nationally recognized research university with dynamic faculty conducting research of regional, national and international importance. The scope of research on campus is as diverse as our degree programs. From anthropology to engineering, our faculty start their days teaching and burn the midnight oil conducting research and scholarly activities. Research and scholarly activities benefit teaching and learning opportunities on campus. As a student, you get immediate access to cutting-edge research that precedes publication. Many faculty have exciting and innovative research opportunities for you to become involved in. For instance:

Brett Oppegaard, assistant professor of communication working in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program, is studying mobile place-based media at Fort Vancouver National Historical Site. This project integrates digital media with mobile technology to interpret the history of the site in new ways, including telling the story of the Hawaiian influence on the cultural development of the Pacific Northwest. CMDC students, as well as those working on the communication minor, can participate directly on this project, while other students, and friends and family, can become Fort Vancouver Mobile (FVM) beta testers, just by emailing fortvancouvermobilebeta (at) gmail.com.

Allison Coffin, assistant professor of neuroscience, joined our faculty this year and has started up a lab to study hair cells in the inner ear and lateral line. Her research examines two questions: 1) What cellular and molecular events trigger hair cell death following toxic insult? and, 2) How do endogenous hormones influence hair cell death and proliferation? Dr. Coffin is currently looking for graduate students to work in her lab. Interested students should contact Dr. Coffin at allison.coffin (at) wsu.edu.

In January 2012, WSU Vancouver celebrated the opening of the Science and Engineering building. This has created collaborative space for engineering faculty and students to take on research and development from computer-aided engineering to robotics and automation. Jie Xu, assistant professor of engineering and computer science, currently has research opportunities in the Microfluidics Lab. Students have the opportunity to conduct high-quality research, apply for grants and awards, present results at professional conferences and publish scientific papers. If this sounds interesting to you, contact Dr. Xu at jie.xu (at) wsu.edu.

In our Occupational Health and Safety Lab, Tahira Probst, professor of psychology, focuses on issues related to employee health, well-being, and safety. Both undergraduate and graduate students can gain valuable research experience helping to design surveys and field studies, collecting data in organizations, preparing feedback reports and even presenting at conferences. Dr. Probst has helped many students develop student-initiated research projects as well. If these sound interesting to you, contact Dr. Probst at probst (at) vancouver.wsu.edu.
Each spring we celebrate student and faculty research at the WSU Vancouver Research Showcase. This event brings together researchers across many disciplines to learn about each other’s work. Students receive special recognition at the event; awards are given to the top three graduate and top three undergraduate student projects.

The benefits of participating in active research on campus are many. Some students have transferred their experiences to internships while others have bolstered their graduate school applications. Students, like you, who participate in research have a chance to demonstrate what they are learning and gain real-world experience solving complex problems and communicating complex ideas. These skills are assets to any future employer.

I challenge you to take a look at our research webpage, research.vancouver.wsu.edu, to learn more about research conducted on our campus and how you can become involved.

Dr. Robert C. Bates
Director, Office of Research and Graduate Education
Provost Emeritus, Washington State University

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