Asking the right questions. Digging for information. Formulating a position. These steps in the research process are not innate in many of us. They must be cultivated and nurtured. The University of Houston’s Undergraduate Research Program gives students an opportunity to harness their curiosity and creativity, and learn from the masters.
“I lived in Oklahoma City when the bombing occurred there (in 1995), and, ever since then, I’ve been curious about why people behave this way and what we can do to stop them,” said Matt Dickenson, a senior, political science major. In the program, he discovered his love for research and met a mentor-teacher in political science Professor Ryan Kennedy. Kennedy helped him craft a real-world, research project.
“Removing (terrorist) leaders can decrease violence. That’s the argument made by leaders in the U.S., Israel, and around the world. And I found that there are a lot of countries where they’ve used this policy of removing terrorist leaders,” Dickenson said. “But there are arguments on both sides over whether or not that actually reduces violence, so this is the first time that a quantitative, empirical approach had been taken to study this question.”
Housed in the UH Honors College, the Undergraduate Research Program is for students of all academic disciplines. Each is coupled with a faculty-mentor, who guides them through the research process and through a research project.
“I looked at three different tiers of leadership, if it’s a top level leader, taking him out can reduce violence. If he’s more of a spiritual leader or symbolic leader, taking him out doesn’t do a lot to decrease violence” he said.
The experiences positions undergrads for success in graduate school and professional life.
“To be able to get to graduate school and already know a lot about how research is conducted, opens up new possibilities and new questions to explore,” Dickenson said.
The Undergraduate Research Program is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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