Undergraduate research boosts confidence, student says

Chemistry major Chris Eubanks used to be very shy, but his research project related to hydrogen fuel cell technology has brought him out of his shell.

"Going to conferences is really good for me," said Eubanks, a junior who chose Appalachian because of the personal attention he knew he'd get from his professors. "I used to have a hard time even saying the hometown where I'm from and now I can talk easily about what my research project is about."

Eubanks explored new ways to produce hydrogen for fuel cells with his mentor, Dr. Michael Hambourger, in summer 2011 as one of 10 participants in the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program held at Appalachian.

Since then, he has continued his research and presented his findings at a national meeting of the American Chemistry Society in fall 2011. "Having so many people gathered together and getting their input on inorganic chemistry was great," Eubanks said afterwards. "You learn so much."

Eubanks is also one of 30 students selected to participate in the National Conferences for Undergraduate Research held in Odgen, Utah, March 29-31, 2012. This is the highest number of Appalachian ever accepted into NCUR, which typically rejects 40 percent of the nationwide submissions.

The opportunity to conduct research or creative endeavors alongside their professors is a hallmark of the Appalachian experience. Students' work is showcased at professional conferences in the region and across the United States, which are considered critical opportunities to their success in pursuing graduate school or careers in today's marketplace.

In 2005, Appalachian created the Office of Student Research to expand opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to engage in research and mentored scholarship. The benefits of student research, scholarship, and creative endeavors to students' learning, according to the office, include:

  • Close working relationship with a faculty mentor
  • A better understanding of research methods
  • The opportunity to apply knowledge from class
  • The opportunity for co-authorship on publications and presentations
  • Increased chance for success in researched-based graduate programs
  • Elevated self-confidence and empowerment
  • The ability to think and work like a scientist
  • Clarification/confirmation of career plans