Newswise — In the midst of an outbreak of the chikungunya virus in Haiti this summer, research by Creighton University undergrad Augusta Herman helped health agencies recognize the cultural challenges of containing the epidemic by understanding how Haitians perceive western medicine.
“Ever since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has been a place I’ve been interested in and passionate about,” said Herman, now a senior majoring in medical anthropology. “I wanted to do more than just a weeklong mission trip. Through research I knew I could have a greater impact on Haiti’s future.”
In the past, research like Herman’s would have been conducted only by graduate students pursuing advanced degrees. However, today at Creighton University, more undergraduate research is happening than ever before — a growing trend. In the past seven years, the university has seen the number of students involved in faculty-directed independent research projects quadruple from around 200 students in 2007 to approximately 800 students this year. Even freshmen are getting in on the action, which was a rarity just five years ago. Today, many freshmen perform research all four years of their undergraduate careers.
As the number of undergraduate researchers has grown, so has the number of research opportunities and the amount of funding available for research at the university. Creighton currently offers more than 30 funded summer fellowships, where as a decade ago only two to four were awarded each year. External grant funding awarded to Creighton’s College of Arts & Sciences has increased from approximately $400,000 in 2000 to approximately $3 million today.
Most importantly, the surge has resulted in an increase in the breadth and depth of what is being studied. Research articles co-authored by Creighton undergrads are being published in peer-reviewed journals at a significant rate — an average of about 30 published articles each year.
“Ten years ago, it would have been rare for an undergrad to see their research published,” said Dr. Juliane Strauss-Soukup, director of Creighton’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. “Last school year, a graduating senior had already co-authored research in four publications as an undergrad.”
Creighton’s boom in undergraduate research is not going unnoticed. The university was recently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 32 universities in the country for undergraduate research — a list filled with recognizable and highly prestigious schools. Creighton, which is also ranked #1 in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, is the only Catholic school to be named to the list.