The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), a signature program at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), has entered its 10th anniversary. The program has not just helped foster a research culture within the undergraduate community over the years, but has also helped students to develop insightful perspectives on their areas of interest, which is beneficial for their pursuit of careers.
Pioneered by HKUST, UROP was launched in 2005 to give undergraduate students an early taste of research with the guidance of faculty members. Started with a humble size of some 70 participating students, the program has grown in both scale and impact with 370 students joining in 2013-14. The number of participating faculty members has also jumped nearly four times to 148 over the past decade.
Prof Kar Yan Tam, Associate Provost, Dean of Students and instigator of the program, said it was encouraging to see so many students benefited from it. “UROP has proved that undergraduates can also make significant and original contributions to research, many of our participants have been admitted to the world’s top universities for further studies with full scholarship support, others have published academic papers in distinguished journals and delivered their findings at international conferences despite their young ages.”
Started off as a summer program, UROP has revamped the course into a credit-bearing series in 2010 amid the program’s growing popularity. Last year, a fourth course was added to the series so students can now spread a research project over four semesters. There are now 250 UROP projects on offer, spanning across various disciplines including science, engineering, business, humanities and social sciences.
Prof Michelle Yik, from Division of Social Science and Director of UROP, said giving students an early taste of research helps them decide whether they wish to pursue a higher academic course after graduation. “UROP illustrates beautifully the unique feature of research-embedded teaching. Students serve as junior partners of faculty members in formulating new research topics, which push them to tackle a problem critically from multiple angles.”
To enhance the research experience for undergraduate students, UROP has launched the International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) with four partners: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Cambridge, Tokyo Institute of Technology and The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) since 2012, to offer our students research experiences in a different cultural environment. A number of IROP participants have contributed to major scientific discoveries during their study at these top-notch universities and institutions.
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