On May 20th, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) held its 23rd Annual Symposium. The daylong event featured over 700 projects completed collaboratively or individually by over 1000 individual students across all disciplines represented at UCI. The Symposium provides an opportunity for undergraduates from all disciplines to present their research results in a professional setting.

Students presented their research projects they had conducted over the year with the aid of over 400 faculty mentors. “There were so many exciting projects that were featured at the symposium,” said Said Shokair, Founding Director of UROP. “There were projects that covered all disciplines, from choreographed dance pieces and social behavior projects to applied engineering and design.”

Founded at UCI in 1995, UROP in the Division of Undergraduate Education has been a national model for centralized undergraduate research programs, completely unique across the University of California system. UCI’s UROP program has provided the basis for a few UC campuses to launch their own undergraduate research programs, as well as assisted in the consultation of such programs’ creation.

UROP is committed to providing a professional environment conducive to research advancement and career skills development. This most recent symposium featured over 300 oral presentations by undergraduate students at UCI and over 400 poster presentations.

“Close to 50% of all students who have graduated from UC Irvine in recent years have participated in either independent or group research projects,” said Shokair. “We want every student to go beyond their coursework and ask themselves how they can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to their own research interests and break disciplinary boundaries.”

“The core of a university’s mission is research. At a top tier research university like UCI, it’s important to maximize the benefits of receiving an education from such an institution,” Shokair went on to say.

In his words, Shokair states that UROP has been an effective catalyst and facilitator of faculty mentored research and creative activities. Their strategy is to take the initiative and develop efficient and effective programs and deliver them with excellence.

“The bottom line is that a university cannot exist without its faculty and students and the breakthroughs they create. When these two groups come together with the common goal of innovation and expansion and you are able to showcase this collaboration, there is nothing greater.”

UROP looks to engage and integrate students and identify their interests. “We want students to go beyond the label we call a major and turn their interests into a passion, graduating with confidence–engaging with the research process, taking initiatives and experience the challenges and failures that will allow them to make better decisions for what they want to do after their years of undergraduate education at UCI.”

It is estimated that over 2500 individuals have been engaged in different components and vehicles of the research process during the 2015-2016 year. These vehicles include Grants/Fellowships awarded in response to the UROP Fall or Spring Calls for Proposals; SURP Grants Fellowships; Grants or Fellowships associated with other programs sponsored by UROP.

In terms of direct funding from UROP, it is anticipated that close to $700,000 will be awarded in support of close to 1,500 students mentored by over 450 faculty members representative of all disciplines represented at UCI.

“As the founding director, I reflect on the many years since we launched UROP in 1995, and I am extremely proud of the growth of UROP’s national reputation. The collaborations that have resulted because of the opportunity that has been provided has been a key signature of UROP’s success.”

The event was attended by not only families, students, and faculty, but also by community members, local CEO’s and foundations members that attend to examine what UCI has to offer.

“Every year is a record compared to the year before. The growth is always visible, and were consistently able to improve the quality of UROP and the overall experience. It’s becoming a hub of research, ideas and networking, and showcases the points of pride and passion that exists at UCI.”