How undergraduate research helps a big university feel small

What it means to be an undergraduate researcher

Beyond pipettes and robots


Joining a research group as an undergraduate student can be an intimidating prospect. Yulin Hu and Meghan Van Der Hyde, kinesiology students and researchers, empathize with this feeling, but think anyone can do undergraduate research.

“At the beginning I was worried because English is not my first language,” Yulin says. “I thought I might not be as competitive as other domestic students for getting research opportunities. But my fears were unnecessary.”

“Oregon State has a lot of research opportunities that aren’t that hard,” Meghan says. “And research doesn’t just mean pipetting or building robots.”

It starts with a simple email

Oregon State’s Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts (URSA) helps connect undergrads with research projects and faculty mentors.

"I found my project by going through a list provided by URSA” Meghan says. “This is a great place to start, because these professors are looking for student researchers.”

After emailing multiple faculty members, Meghan met with Clinical Associate Professor Cathy Crowell to discuss research opportunities.


Cathy Crowel and Meghan Van Der Hyde

Similarly, Yulin sent a simple email introduction to Cathy, whom she has worked with for almost two years. “In the first meeting, I didn’t organize and express my thoughts fluently, but she listened patiently and encouraged me to talk about my interests.”

Firsthand experience with data collection

Yulin and Meghan worked closely with a doctoral student to help collect data for her dissertation on evaluating the effectiveness of common fall prevention exercises.

“We evaluated limb dominance in older adults using a motion capture system and force plates,” Meghan says. “We helped with the setup and actual data collection.”

Meghan and Yulin are now using the data they helped collect for their Honors College theses.

Unexpected benefits

The main benefits of participating in undergraduate research are testing out a particular topic and developing valuable skills for a future career or graduate school, Meghan and Yulin say.

They regularly participate in lab meetings where they discuss research articles and learn about the public health consequences of falls among older adults.

They also presented their findings at Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence — OSU’s annual undergraduate showcase of research and creative work.

For Meghan, an unexpected benefit has been the mentor-mentee relationships she’s formed with professors and graduate students. “When I need help, with research or class work, I have a lot of people to go to,” she says.

“I’m going to nursing school,” she adds. “The Honors thesis and research experience with human participants and being published will really set me apart.”

Yulin plans to pursue a degree in physical therapy and is confident her undergraduate research experience will prepare her for future studies.

“I’m already encouraging my friends to participate in research,” she says. “Set yourself up for success after graduation.”

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Take your pick

Potential research projects in the College of Health are diverse.

You can choose from topics such as:

  • Adapted physical activity
  • Environmental health
  • Kindergarten readiness
  • Investigating which nutritional and lifestyle factors affect cancer risk.

Get a head start by checking out COH undergraduate student research


Contact the Office of Student Success

The College of Health Office of Student Success is a place to connect with academic and peer advisors and professional faculty who can assist with internships, study abroad experiences, experiential learning and career development.