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University of Iowa News Release

May 20, 2003

Assistantship Program Provides Undergraduates Research Experience

Undergraduate students at the University of Iowa have the chance to assist faculty in research projects and gain experience as part of the UI Career Center's Undergraduate Scholar Assistantship Program (USA).

"The program not only gives students a taste of what graduate-level research is like, but also pairs faculty with talented students who want to excel in their area of study," says Jane Schildroth, Career Center director.

Undergraduate Scholar Assistants are students who are specially selected to work with individual faculty mentors in fields such as research, lab work, teaching, manuscript editing, and data collection.

The program allows a tenure-track faculty member to hire one USA student as an assistant to work on a specific project, without an outlay of personal or departmental funds; the USA program provides the funding.

"Tuition set-aside money is used to pay students to do research with faculty," Schildroth said. The faculty member lists their opportunity with the Career Center; students apply, get selected, and complete the paperwork to have the experience registered as an internship on their official transcript.

The Career Center appoints the students and they receive $2,500 for 10 hours/week for two semesters or $1,250 for one semester of work.

This past year, students did research in a wide range of disciplines. Meghan Dolan collected data on terrorist events over the past 50 years as part of a political science project, while Emily Maher compiled an online archive of information about writers in the International Writing Program.

One student even got the chance to learn what it's like to be a rocket scientist. Sophomore Andrew Cowan worked with physics and astronomy professor Craig Kletzing to write computer code and analyze data from a rocket mission flown to investigate the aurora borealis.

Senior Corina Vidal worked with Christopher Turner, a professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, on a research project titled "The Effects
of Pitch Information on Speech Recognition Thresholds in Background Noise." Vidal tested the ability of people with cochlear implants to hear speech above background noise.

"I really enjoyed working on this project with Chris Turner. It taught me what research in the field of my interest entails, and I was able to obtain a hands-
on experience which books and exams cannot match. I would highly recommend becoming an undergraduate scholar assistant.

"The program is a good precursor to graduate research," Turner said. "Corina set up the experiment and did the whole project, and has become a working member of my lab.

Other students worked on environmental research projects, such as Mariah Gillette who helped conduct agricultural water quality studies in the department of geography. She took samples from local watersheds and attended local water quality workshops. Gillette says water quality is an important issue for Iowa and this assistantship has increased her knowledge in the area.

"I was able to work with professionals in this field, and this will hopefully help me in the future in my career," she said.

To qualify for the program, a student must have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA), be enrolled full-time and be at least at the sophomore level. The faculty must be tenured or tenure-track and can only have one student at a time.

USA students get official recognition from the University for their work experience, in the form of a non-credit internship notation on their official transcript.

For more information about the USA program, contact Jane Schildroth in the Career Center at (319) 335-1023 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: George McCrory, University of Iowa News Services 319-384-0012, Writers: George McCrory and Joshua Rosenthal