Wednesday, May 18 is UCI Giving Day 2022. On this day, we invite you to support the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). UROP supports over 1,400 undergraduate students from all over UCI’s campus as they conduct research and develop their project management, teamwork, and communication skills along the way. This Giving Day, all gifts to UROP will go towards supporting research scholarships that allow students like Kayssa Courey to explore research opportunities and discover their passion. Read on to learn more about Karyssa’s experience with UROP.

At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), excellence in research is one of the major cornerstones of campus culture. Even amidst the global pandemic, UCI continued to uphold its commitment to introducing its student body to the world of academic research.

Through programs such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), students across all schools and disciplines are encouraged to collaborate with faculty members and pursue their own research and creative projects. With the goal of integrating the undergraduate population into UCI’s research culture, UROP creates opportunities for students to connect with faculty members, develop research and professional skills, apply for funding, and present and publish their work. 

For some students, exposure to UROP and the possibilities of academic research comes early in their college careers. This was the case for alumna Karyssa Courey. Karyssa first recalls hearing about UROP during her freshman year when she began researching with Dr. Donald Hoffman, Professor of Cognitive Sciences. As the faculty recipient of the School of Social Sciences Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research in 2002, a member of UROP’s Faculty Advisory Board from 1995 to 2007, and UROP Faculty Mentor of the Month in December of 2009, Dr. Hoffman was well acquainted with all the fantastic opportunities that UROP could offer students.

The following year, Karyssa applied for UROP and was also accepted into the Honors Program in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, an advanced educational and research program for outstanding undergraduate students. Through one of her classes, she connected with Dr. Michael Lee, Professor of Cognitive Sciences, and joined his lab. That quarter, she submitted a UROP proposal for “Mate Selection as a Full Information Optimal Stopping Problem in a Changing Environment” with Dr. Lee as her faculty mentor.

Following her first UROP proposal, Karyssa also received funding to continue her research through UROP’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). Students who successfully become SURP Fellows receive a stipend from UROP to support the time and effort they invest in their research projects over the summer. This research project with Dr. Lee culminated in a research article that was published in the Computational Brain & Behavior academic journal.

During her third year, Kayssa began another research project through UROP where she focused on student evaluations of teaching at UCI. In 2021, this research was published in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

For Karyssa, working with UROP was beneficial in several ways. Not only did it allow her to connect with faculty and challenge her to think more critically, but it has also opened the door to additional opportunities. For instance, Kayssa’s research experience helped her secure a research coordinator position in Students for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP), a professional development program geared toward helping students gain exposure to the field of industrial/organizational psychology and preparing them for their post-baccalaureate aspirations. As a research coordinator, Karyssa led two UROP projects that both received grant funding.

Karyssa graduated from UCI Summa Cum Laude in 2021 and received a considerable number of accolades, including the School of Social Sciences Order of Merit Award, Nellie Ansley Reeves Campuswide Honors Collegium Thesis Award, Chancellor’s Award of Distinction, and Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. 

Looking back at her time at UCI, one of the things that Karyssa emphasizes is that her experience with UROP helped her decide her future goals. Karyssa is now a Ph.D. student at Rice University where she continues to study industrial-organizational psychology. While the experience she gained working with UROP has helped to make this goal possible, what’s more important to Karyssa is that it helped her discover her true passions.

“It allowed me to understand my interest and enjoyment of research, conducting experiments, seeing projects through, and analyzing results,” she explains. “I have grown so much, and I wouldn’t have been able to develop as a researcher if I hadn’t taken that first step.”

This UCI Giving Day, giving a gift to UROP ensures that other UCI students can engage in the same transformative research experiences that Karyssa enjoyed. On Wednesday, May 18, all gifts will be matched 2:1, tripling your impact! Show your support for UCI student researchers by clicking here to give your gift.