CSUN Receives $3M Grant to Establish ESTUDIO for Undergraduate Research
California State University, Northridge, has received a $3 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to lay the foundation for what university officials hope will be an ongoing effort to encourage research by CSUN’s undergraduate students across disciplines and to provide support to faculty who want to expand research opportunities for their students.
The money is to support the creation of ESTUDIO: Excellence in Student Training for Undergraduates, Diversity Initiative Office. The program designed to inspire new generations of researchers while expanding the opportunities for research to those students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“We’ve already established centers and best practices in a variety of STEM arenas,” said CSUN psychology professor Gabriela Chavira, one of the architects of the new program. “The goal is for ESTUDIO to serve students across disciplines to learn and experience research.”
CSUN Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs Christopher Sanford pointed out that research “is an important skillset that you can take with you, irrespective of your career path.”
In addition to Chavira, those working on establishing ESTUDIO include civil engineering professor Crist Khachikian and Melanie Bocanegra, associate vice president for student success.
“We all know that research is a high-impact practice,” Khachikian said. “In some pockets of the campus, this practice is really well developed — the students know what they want and the faculty know what they want — and they are working together to create an environment where undergraduate research is taking place. But, in other areas, the process is not as organized. We are trying to make these opportunities more systemic, more pervasive across campus.”
Khachikian and his colleagues said ESTUDIO will tap into the best practices of many programs on campus that already offer undergraduate research opportunities — including Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Promoting Opportunities for Diversity in Education and Research (PODER) and Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-RISE), both designed to encourage CSUN students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
ESTUDIO also will provide an environment where faculty can mentor and network to develop an undergraduate research program that meets the needs of their discipline.
“In a sense, we’re putting together a ‘brain trust’ so that a professor who isn’t part of any of those programs can learn from their colleagues to develop their owns strategies with their students,” Khachikian said.
Bocanegra said the program also will serve as a central location and resource for undergraduates to explore and discover research opportunities.
“There are a lot of students on campus who are unsure about what research is and what programs are out there where they can learn how to do and participate in research, particularly if they aren’t in STEM,” she said. “We, as a campus, need to provide a place for them — particularly since so many of our students are first-generation college students — to explore what their interests are and find other students who have done research and who can share their experiences with them.
“CSUN already has a reputation as an institution that takes research, and research opportunities for our students, seriously,” Bocanegra said. “Now, we’re taking it to the next level to ensure that as many of undergraduate students, regardless of their major, have an opportunity to do research.”