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Research Warriors connects students, faculty with research interests

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February 14, 2017

Many undergraduate students are interested in research opportunities but not sure where or how to start. Research Warriors, a new student organization on campus, hopes to help all WSU students kick-start their research experience.

WSU celebrates research at all levels and is one of only 10 U.S. public universities in major cities holding the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s designation as an institution with “very high research activity.” The university, along with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, is a member of the University Research Corridor, which contributed $16.5 billion in economic activity and more than 68,000 jobs to the state in 2016.

Formed in March 2016, Research Warriors offers students writing workshops, social events and the opportunity to connect with faculty mentors through networking events and lab tours. They also host an annual Dine with Professors program, in which faculty members from various disciplines speak with students about their research and involvement opportunities over a casual dinner.

“Research is a great hands-on experience. It really goes beyond classroom learning,” said Jiayin Dong, president of Research Warriors. “Having a research mentor, especially at the undergraduate level, helps you identify areas within your interests that can be developed, and they help you do so from start to finish.”

Dong, a graduate student majoring in biomedical engineering, has recently worked with her faculty mentor, Peter Hoffmann, professor of physics and associate dean of research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, on a project using atomic force microscopy in cancer research.

Hoffmann serves as Research Warriors’ faculty advisor.

“Working with students is one of the most rewarding things on campus. We have fantastic students here, and they can bring a lot of ideas, excitement and motivation into a research project,” said Hoffmann. “Sometimes, perhaps because they have a little less formal knowledge and theoretical background, these students are less afraid to try new things or think differently.”

Hoffmann believes research in any subject can benefit from student involvement.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to take place in a lab to be research,” Hoffmann said. “Working with students — no matter your expertise — benefits both the faculty member and student. The student’s excitement is contagious, and you’re able to contribute to that while watching them learn and grow.”

Research Warriors was formed with that mutually beneficial connection in mind, supporting the mission of WSU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). In addition to Research Warriors, students and faculty who are interested in undergraduate research are encouraged to search UROP Connect, the program’s searchable database.

“When you’re doing research, you have to move beyond classroom-based learning and start thinking like a scientist,” said Ahila Manivannan, a senior majoring in nutrition and food science who is the Research Warriors’ events manager. “In class, you report the findings of an experiment. In research, you have to look at those results and ask yourself ‘what next?’”

Having a faculty mentor — as well as a supportive peer network — has made a difference for Manivannan, whose research project examined the function of the calponin, a protein found in the actin cytoskeleton.

“Wayne State really fosters the best in people,” she said. “As students, we want to see each other succeed, and we want to help one another.”  

To learn more about Research Warriors, contact researchwarriors@wayne.edu or visit their website.

To learn more about research at Wayne State University, visit research.wayne.edu.