TRU introduces new pilot research program

Senior students can become research coaches to help engage first- and second-year students

The Office of Research and Graduate Studies will launch a new program geared at engaging first- and second-year students in research opportunities.

The pilot program will grant upper-level undergraduate students scholarships worth $1,500 to work alongside faculty as research coaches.

The recipients of the Research-Informed Learning Scholarships will then have the opportunity to assist instructors in designing a research project for a first- or second-year class.

The research coaches will also be responsible for helping the lower-level students with planning and presenting their research projects.

“We’re building on the capacity and the strength that TRU has in undergraduate research around the mentorship between faculty and upper-level students,” said Sukh Heer Matonovich, manager of graduate studies and student research.

She explained that the faculty will select an upper-level student to become a research coach for a first- or second-year course, because lower-level students are more likely to be more inquisitive with people in their third- and fourth-years. 

“The idea is to introduce research so that students can understand and get a flavour of what it is and an opportunity to build some of those skills, so by the time they get to upper level they’ll be able to tap into the opportunities that we have,” she said.

Heer Matonovich added that one of the primary purposes of the program is to “build equity and access for research” to students in their first- and second-years of university.

“When we really look at all of our research programming, it’s really only looking at the third- and fourth-years. If we really want to be an open-access university – we are an open-access university – we have to look at equity and access and really the gap is in first- and second-year,” she stated.

Still, she admitted that this issue is not unique to TRU as it has become a common problem in several post-secondary institutions.

She insisted that now, TRU is taking steps to carve out the opportunities offered to students at the university.

“When you look at our TRU graduate attributes, we talk about research and we talk about informed learning and lifelong learning. Some of those skills that students build during research is stuff that they can carry through when they leave TRU,” Heer Matonovich explained.

Becoming a research coach gives senior undergraduate students the opportunity to gain valuable mentoring experience and the chance to strengthen and develop their research abilities.

From a faculty perspective, research coaches can provide personalized support to lower level students as they develop their research skills.

Students interested in becoming a research coach should notify their professors or supervisors. Faculty are also encouraged to consult the guidelines on research-informed learning.

The Office of Research and Graduate Studies will grant up to thirty scholarships to upper-level students, based on the faculty member’s commitment to introducing a hands-on high impact researching training project.

“I think building capacity to learn those skills in research such as analyzing data, informed decision making, learning different methodology, creative thinking and analytical thinking are all skills that students can use,” said Heer Matonovich.