Every day, Northeastern University faculty members undertake high-impact, solutions-focused research that addresses pressing global challenges. Northeastern University students, meanwhile, embrace the ethos of experience-driven learning, applying the knowledge and skills they glean in the classroom to real-world, hands-on problems.
If you think this sounds like a great match, you’d be right. The connection was evident at the first ever university-wide Showcase of Opportunities for Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor (SOURCE), held in the Curry Student Center on the evening of September 25. Over 100 faculty from across the colleges and disciplines presented their ongoing research and creative projects and discussed opportunities for involvement with over 1,600 eager and motivated undergraduates.
“Meeting the complex challenges facing our word requires deep collaboration across disciplines,” said Katherine Ziemer, Northeastern’s Vice-Chancellor for Learner Engagement. “SOURCE enables undergraduate students to experience the breadth of ground-breaking research our faculty perform, and to see themselves taking part in the interdisciplinary discovery process that benefits their personal and professional development, while having an impact now.”
Sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor in collaboration with the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, College of Arts, Media and Design, College of Engineering, College of Science, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, D’Amore-McKim School of Business, and Khoury College of Computer Sciences, SOURCE showed students firsthand how faculty members are advancing knowledge and practice in their fields—and working across traditional disciplinary boundaries—to address challenges ranging from autonomous driving to urban informatics, consumer psychology to health equity, fake news to smart manufacturing.
Nicole Aljoe, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies and Director of Africana Studies, said that the breadth of projects and disciplines represented at SOURCE gave students the chance to discover unfamiliar methodologies and expand their understanding of the tools and approaches that fall under the umbrella of “research.”
“For me as a professor of literary studies, it was great to engage with students who wouldn’t ordinarily seek out an English class,” Aljoe commented. “It was also really fun to complicate their understanding of what literary research could look like. The best part though, was watching the students (graduate and undergraduate) who work on the project get really excited about sharing their own research, and encouraging other students to consider participating in ways that reflect their interests.”
Savita Maharaj SSH’23 spoke with SOURCE attendees about the research she is doing with Professor Aljoe and echoed her mentor’s sentiments. “I enjoyed being able to talk about my research with my peers and other professors because it is so important and relevant,” Maharaj said. “I also liked hearing students’ and professors’ thoughts about the work and answering their questions. I was pleased to hear that people from different disciplines wanted to be a part of our research.”
The diversity of research activity on display and students’ enthusiasm for this consequential work were common themes mentioned by other SOURCE attendees, many of whom said that the event highlighted Northeastern’s strength in experiential, solutions-focused learning. “It was fabulous to see so many colleagues and students sharing their passion for their research efforts with undergraduates from all of the colleges,” said Alisa Lincoln, Associate Dean of Research in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and Director of the Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research. “Perhaps most exciting was listening to students currently engaged in research sharing their experiences with other students, and seeing so many stellar examples of community-engaged research poised to address challenges facing many diverse communities.”
Echoing his colleagues, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Carey Rappaport summed it up this way: “SOURCE was breathtaking in its popularity and depth. It was the most packed I’d seen the Curry Student Center in my 32 years at Northeastern,” he marveled. “It made me proud to be part of an academic institution with so many psyched students.”
Undergraduates inspired by SOURCE to join ongoing faculty projects, or to develop their own faculty-mentored research and creative projects, have an array of resources available through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.
The Project-Based Exploration for the Advancement of Knowledge (PEAK) Experiences Awards offer academic and financial support for student engagement with research and creative endeavor through a progressive, developmental sequence of opportunities designed to support and advance students at any stage, while the PEAK Experiences Awards Workshops walk learners interactively through the steps of project ideation and development.