Rutgers ranks among best US science research institutions
Rutgers-New Brunswick was ranked 29th in the nation for science research on Best College Reviews top 50 list, released earlier this month.
Factors included the number of research centers in the University, undergraduate opportunities for students and federal funding for research.
The University spends approximately $744 million annually in research and development, and the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository, one of the largest repositories in the world, has acquired over $57.8 million from the National Institutes of Health, according to Rutgers website. The University's funding also surpasses the funding of all New Jersey universities combined.
“We have a number of programs and opportunities here at (the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences) to connect undergraduate students to research, some unique and some shared,” said Richard Ludescher, dean of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
He said most of their programs are in applied science, like food or environmental science, and basic science disciplines are applied to specific areas. Professors who do this applied research teach undergraduate courses and offer students possible research opportunities through their regular classes.
“We have the George H. Cook Honors Scholar program, an independent honors research program," Ludescher said. "This is an intense program where students work with a faculty member to define a project, write a proposal, which is defended before a committee, do the research and write up a G.H. Cook Thesis."
The Cook/Douglass campuses dean’s offices hold a research mixer each fall and spring semester to introduce undergraduate students to research opportunities and connect them to specific researchers, he said.
“Our faculty actively participates in opportunities that either introduce first years to our research areas or connect any undergraduate to a research opportunity,” he said.
Mika Tioco, an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy second-year student, said the pharmacy program has yet to really help him advance just yet, only because there are not many opportunities for advancement during the pre-professional years.
She said she believes there are more opportunities for students in the professional school, especially for those who are interested in research.
“I'm definitely looking forward to starting professional school, taking more pharmacy-specific courses and discovering more opportunities next semester,” she said.
Other students, like Julia Xia, a Schools of Arts and Sciences senior, feel like they have benefited greatly from many research opportunities available to them.
Xia has been doing research in a neuroscience lab since her first year and has been involved in many Aresty Research Assistant programs since then. She said they are a great way for students to get connected with the vast research resources available at Rutgers.
The Aresty Research Assistant Program allows undergraduate students to work on projects with faculty members from all fields and provides them with research skills by doing five hours of research a week, attending 60-minute peer group meetings every month and working side-by-side with professors.
“There are many professors doing a lot of fascinating things across all campuses and all Rutgers schools, and Aresty makes all of that more accessible by putting together a database of all these projects and allowing students to apply to individual projects that they find through this system,” Xia said.
She said students participate in peer group discussions lead by upperclassmen mentors who guide them and show them how to be an active member of the research community. They also teach them the do’s and don’ts of starting research, how to present your research successfully to various audiences and more.
“I’ve definitely learned to think more independently and critically, and I’ve gotten very good at thinking about ways to visually and orally present my ideas and shape all the research I’ve done into a story that people will be interested in and can understand, Xia said.
Although Rutgers placed among the top 30 universities for science research, it still has room for improvement.
Ludescher said he thinks Rutgers needs to explore alternative models for involving students in the day-to-day process of doing discovery research.
He said he is regularly rejecting talented students who want to work in his lab, for example, because him and the senior researchers just do not have the time to work with additional students.
He said a way to move forward is to expand the idea of what it means to do research. The primary research is discovery research, but there are other forms of research that students could be involved with.
“Ernest Boyer argues that there are four distinct types of scholarship (research): the scholarship of discovery, of integration, of application and of teaching," Ludescher said. "Innovative methods that involve undergraduate students in some of these other forms of research could be highly effective."