Musings

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Student Director Catherine McMillan ('22) describes her frustration finding undergraduate research opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities fields as a first-year student.

I’m currently a sophomore at Duke University, woefully undecided what I’m going to major in and restlessly anticipating the moment I actually get involved in faculty-led research. 

What is a research mentor? (tldr: It's probably not a PI, and that’s not a bad thing)

Written by Emily Levy, a Muser research mentor and a graduate student in Prof. Susan Alberts’ Lab Group in Duke’s Biology Department.

A research mentor is the person who works most closely with undergraduates on the project. Research groups can include lots of people: professor, principal investigator, director of a research group, research scientists, post-docs, lab techs, lab managers, and graduate students.

What’s in a name? How Muser takes small steps to reduce implicit bias.

Many studies have demonstrated that simply reading a name at the top of a job application, grant application, or even a publication, influences the outcome.  We ask students not to put their name in the application essay so that mentors can perform the initial evaluation of the applications without knowing the student’s name.  Once mentors have reviewed the essays, they choose a subset of applications to review. At this point, students’ names become visible so that mentors can reach out to them directly for interviews.  Does this reduce all bias in the process? Not at all.

History of Muser

Prof. Sheila Patek (Biology Dept.) founded Muser and is the current Director.  After her own travails finding a research position as an undergraduate, she was inspired by UC Berkeley’s Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) to create a new, web-based system to “level the playing field” for undergraduates interested in doing research. She started developing the Drupal-based program while at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (called BURA), and then developed several new versions for Duke (previously called CUBR and MUSER).