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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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Photographed is Alicia Kinoshita, director of undergraduate research at SDSU.

VIDEO: Learn, Discover and Innovate with Student Research

Involvement in research expands students’ interests and knowledge, preparing them for the workforce and high-impact careers.
By Kellie Woodhouse with video by Chris Leap

Roughly 1,740 San Diego State University undergraduates participate in research each year – and for many the experience is transformational. 


Undergraduate research opportunities help students discover which subjects interest them as scholars, allow students to gain the critical skills necessary to enter graduate school and underscore the real-life applications of classroom teachings. 


“Research has been the most rewarding experience for me because, at SDSU, I can get one-on-one help,” senior psychology major Rebecca Mendoza said in a recent interview. “My mentors helped me through everything that I needed and they genuinely care about teaching me how to become an independent researcher.”


SDSU offers several opportunities for involvement, including the SDSU Student Symposium (formerly called the Student Research Symposium). The two-day showcase of student discovery, innovation and creativity takes place in March, and registration for students is open until January 23, 2023. 


“I was engaged early on as an undergraduate student, which helped me find my desire to stay in the STEM field, so I always think about giving back,” said Alicia Kinoshita, director of undergraduate research. “Mentors took chances on me, so that’s something that I’ve wanted to do for other students as well to help them find their way.”


Through research experiences, Kinoshita continued, students are gaining “problem-solving skills, critical thinking practice. They are learning, discovering and innovating.”


Faculty mentors help students achieve better school and career outcomes. The SDSU Aztec Mentor Program (AMP) connects undergraduate and graduate students with career professionals, alums and faculty mentors.


Another program that supports student research is the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), which funded some 60 students to participate in research this summer. SDSU also houses more than a dozen programs aimed at supporting underrepresented students in research, scholarship and creative activities. 


The cell and molecular biology major Sarah Bernabe participated in SURP, measuring permafrost thaw in the Arctic under the guidance of mentor and climate scientist Donatella Zona. The experience opened her ideas to new interests and possibilities.


“SURP is a good way to get first-hand experience with doing your own experiments and analyzing data,” Bernabe said in a recent interview. “Don’t limit yourself. You never know what you’re going to be interested in.”


For more information about the SDSU Student Symposium and other student research opportunities, visit the undergraduate research website.