Research is not meant to be “something that just sits on a shelf somewhere or in a journal,” says Dr. Sharon Friesen. And that's why collaborating with an undergraduate student in the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) was so valuable to the Werklund School of Education professor.
“It really gave me huge hope in terms of the kinds of young people who are entering the teaching profession and bringing a strong research inquiry orientation to their practice,” says Friesen, BEd'86, MEd'91, PhD'00.
Friesen supervised first-year education student Sharmaine Tay’s PURE project in the summer of 2022. “I was deeply impressed, and the research she was interested in was closely aligned with the work that I do,” she says.
Friesen and Tay collaborated on an in-depth literature review focused on online collaboration in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic and completed a joint paper for publication. “The research Sharmaine did brought me up to speed on the current literature and put me right up front and centre with what was being published at the time,” Friesen says.
For faculty who become supervisors for PURE, it’s an opportunity to spark new interest in their own research and foster research skills in students. “Her enthusiasm was absolutely contagious,” says Friesen of Tay’s research. “Sharmaine’s appetite was whetted. She now wants to go into graduate work, which was kind of my hope for her. That she would be able to get a glimpse [into research] and it would be compelling, and it definitely was.”
Tay’s reflections on the PURE process echo Friesen’s experience. “The more I trusted in the research process and my supervisor’s mentorship, the more I realized that flexibility in research often means pivoting to the better option for the researcher and for the project,” Tay says. “Even my research findings reflect this idea, that, when forced into a new environment (like the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic), it is not only possible, but imperative to remain flexible and create a path forward that is better than the one we started with.”
The PURE program awards up to $7,500 for undergraduate students in all disciplines to embark on an eight-, 12- or 16-week summer research project with a supervisor in an area of their interest. The program is an exceptional undergraduate research experience, with many participating students going on to further research in their careers.
Applications for undergraduate summer studentships in research, including PURE, opened on Dec. 8, 2022, with a student deadline of Feb. 3, 2023. Interested academic staff are encouraged to identify curious student researchers to mentor. Supervisors must also submit a letter of reference to the application portal by Feb. 10, 2023.
More information about the awards and the application process can be found at taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/pure-awards.