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In a world of focused expertise and specialties, undergraduate research allows students to develop their professional niches early. The reality of high level competition for the best jobs, graduate schools, professional schools, and prestigious scholarships may influence students to choose a focus and work to distinguish themselves in their milieu at earlier points in their educational careers. Universities and colleges that encourage faculty to involve undergraduates in research are investing well in the future and contributing greatly to the best education for their youngest students.
While specializing in one area may offer students some benefits, the real challenge for students today is to remain open to connections between and among disciplines. I am reminded of a late night flight from Washington D.C. on which I engaged in a conversation regarding undergraduate research with a professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine. The professor commented that he had benefited from his involvement in undergraduate research at one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the world a few decades earlier and that his experience had set him on a charmed path to becoming a professor at an elite medical school. His undergraduate mentor had prepared him early for a life of research and teaching. He now finds himself both grateful for the advantage but also reflective about the cost of specializing. At forty he is eager to rediscover the world beyond medicine. A good education plants the seeds of appreciating beyond one’s expertise.
In the spirit of transcending the world of experts who are narrowly confined to their own specialties, the Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities includes an impressive undergraduate editorial staff with majors in a diverse array of academic disciplines. They share a passion for providing a global venue for undergraduates to broadly share their scholarly and creative works. The editors and the contributors are students who are developing particular expertise while remaining curious about developments and advancements beyond their chosen field of study. We invite you to enjoy the wide variety of art and scholarly works included in this issue of JURO.
Dr. Pam Kleiber