>Season 4 - Episode 407
Research and teaching are not separate functions of the Baylor experience, but rather inform one another and enhance engaged learning for students. In this Baylor Connections, Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research in Baylor’s Office of Engaged Learning, describes the impact of research experiences for students and shares ways they can get involved in research across a variety of disciplines.
Derek Smith:Hello, and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research and student life. I'm Derek Smith and we are talking undergraduate research today with Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer. Dr. Klausmeyer is the director of undergraduate research in Baylor's Office of Engaged Learning, and is a senior lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry. She joined the Baylor faculty in 2000 and has served as associate director of the Office of Pre-health Studies and program director of Science and Health LLC. In 2018 she became the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, which offers a variety of resources to help undergraduate students engage in dynamic opportunities to pursue faculty guided research here at Baylor. There's lots of opportunities for students and, Dr. Klausmeyer, we're excited to talk to you about that today. Thanks so much for joining us here on Baylor Connections.
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Thank you so much for inviting me to be part of this podcast, Derek.
Derek Smith:Thank you.
Rizalia Klausmeyer:I really appreciate it.
Derek Smith:Well, we appreciate you. You coming on and maybe tying some things together for people a little bit more, because I would imagine if we surveyed a lot of people, even in higher education, maybe they don't work in higher ed, but they went to college and you ask them to talk about research, what they picture when they picture collegiate research, maybe undergraduates aren't the first thing that they would envision.
Derek Smith:So under undergraduate and research, to what extent do you find people are either aware or unaware of the way those two words go together?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:I find both sides of the spectrum. I find people that they are completely surprised that they can join a lab and just be part of a group that's doing research. And then you get the other side that there are so many students nowadays that they start research while they're in high school. So every year I get more and more students with, they have such a diversity of experiences when they come as freshmen that it's, to me it's amazing that they could think that deep when they were in high school. But I guess I was brought up at a different, completely different generation. But yeah, I see both. So more and more I see people that they intend to do research. And then I see the other side of the spectrum and that they come to Baylor and they have no idea that they could join a lab. And I think it has to do a lot with the parents. So if the parents have higher education, then the student actually gets more opportunities, they're aware of more opportunities. And if the parents didn't actually go to university or maybe they were not into any of the sciences, then they're not aware of those opportunities.
Derek Smith:Talking with Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer. And Dr. Klausmeyer, Baylor's investing in research all across campus through alumni, the aspirations of our R1 research recognition, and the Office of Undergraduate Research really coincided with that expansion. In what ways does your office, thinking about Baylor from a broad standpoint help grow the research effort?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Well, there are several ways that we're trying to actually grow the research effort. And one of the earlier ways of doing it was by implementing the science research fellows, which is a major dedicated to students that they want research to be part of their future careers. So that was a big step in the College of Arts and Sciences. And in Baylor recognizing the importance of undergraduate research. The major itself takes into account that research does take quite a bit of time and dedication. So we took a few classes out of the core curriculum and we give credit to the student for actually being in lab. Another way, which is more recent, that we have been incorporating the research is by actually creating classes to give credit for doing research. And research is easily recognized in the science. So there has been the opportunity to get credit for a long time, but in the humanities, sometimes you find that students really don't know that they could do research and get credit for it. So the register office and think Blackwell allowed us to actually put on the schedule research classes and will get credit not to just the science majors, to all the majors within the College of Arts and Sciences. So we're hoping to roll them out in the summer of 2021. We wanted to do it in 2020, but well that didn't happen. So receiving research credit for spending time doing research is now going to be available to all the different majors in the College of Arts and Sciences. So those are two ways that again Baylor is trying to grow research, little by little, undergraduate research.
Derek Smith:Dr. Klausmeyer, you mentioned that students in the science side of arts and sciences have had plenty of opportunities and humanities are as well. Could you help us envision a little bit what some form student research might take? What that looks like in practice when we picture students engaged in different ways?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Oh goodness, there's so many ways. So if you're in the sciences, you always picture this guy with a white coat and some test tubes, maybe a microscope around. But it could also mean that not only that you're in a lab helping a professor in what it's commonly known as bench research. But some labs actually in the biology and environmental science they do field work. So students may find themselves taking air samples in Alaska or water samples, or actually fish samples-
Rizalia Klausmeyer:... in a stream in South Texas. Those are two professors in the environmental department. Some students do the research, analyzing data on a computer, and we have two great majors dedicated to that, which is bioinformatics. And there's a new major that just passed, it's data science, and those are the engineering department. If the student is in one of the many fields in the arts and humanities, they can find themselves, for example, analyzing policy. Last week I helped a student find a research position in political science, and that's what she's going to do. She's going to help the professor analyze policy in cyber warfare, and I think that's amazing. But you can also study literary works, or paintings, and the history behind the paintings. Another example, you know that we have a large pre-medical population at Baylor. I remember this one student that he was doing research in one of the labs in biology, but when it came time to actually write his thesis, honors thesis, he did it about HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia. And the reason he did that is because he was a minor in Russia, in Russian. So he actually got the medicine and his minor to come together in a beautiful thesis. It was actually an incredible thesis, yes. So also undergraduates can take advantage of summer research opportunities and that can be in science, in arts, in humanities. You name it, they have a summer research opportunity for anything that you can possibly think of.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, director of undergraduate research in Baylor's Office of Engaged Learning. Dr. Klausmeyer, you've just described some of the ways that students engage in research, let's tie that in to the teaching function of the university, because sometimes there's a sense that teaching and research are two different things. Whether it's the students engaging in research or the professors, the research that they do themselves. In what ways does research enlive and enhance what takes place in an undergraduate classroom?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:I am glad you brought that up, Derek. The lab is an extension of the classroom. You learn the concept in the classroom, and then you go to lab and you try out the concept. And basically you learn more by doing it then you learn in the lecture. So learning by doing is the best example to actually learn. And the biology department is the one that has done the most in incorporating a lab research experience within the class. They have what they call CURES, C-U-R-E-S, which is Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences. So basically they take the biology class and the lab portion are all together. But the difference between that CURE and a regular lab is that in a regular lab you go every week and you do a different experiment that goes along with what you're learning in class, but technically different experiments. In a CURE you actually have to come up with a project. They give you a theme, but you have to come up with a project, your hypothesis, you have to develop your research methods. And at the end you actually present with a poster presentation during Scholars Week. So there are several types of research courses, celiacs and phages. Those are with Dr. Tammy Adair. I am more familiar with the CURE that includes the wetlands. And that would be with Dr. Marty Harvill. I wish other departments would actually start offering this classes, but it takes time to develop a suitable lab experience that goes along with the lecture. So hopefully soon we will see this CURES in chemistry or maybe physics.
Derek Smith:That's great. You know, when you picture that, whether it's outside the classroom or inside the classroom, certainly class lectures, that time when the professor is up in front of the class are important. But it seems like Baylor and professors really across the board are trying to be more intentional about engaging students in different ways beyond those lectures.
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Well, we have been blessed with professors that really truly care about the student experience. So they offer so many different things to the students nowadays. Of course, there's that relationship, that mentoring relationship in which the professor actually tells you about graduate school, about your career plans. But professors, particularly the professors we have at Baylor, I don't know if professors at other universities are like this, but our professors really do value the work of undergraduate students. So they help them showcase their research. Maybe take them to national conferences, advising them about career choices. And sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes if the student work has been extensive, then they can add their name to a publication. So our professors are amazing in what they do for the undergraduate students. And the Office of Engaged Learning has several awards that recognize all the effort that professors pour into our students. So three years ago we created the Betsy Vardaman Awards for Excellence in Mentoring. And this is, again, this is going to be our third year, but we are also recognizing all the time and effort that our professors put into our students, into our undergraduate research students.
Derek Smith:You know, would you describe them being engaged in different ways? Engaged learning is a term that we hear a lot when talking about really just modern students in general. And in particular that ties into research. When we talk about engaged learning, what does that mean to you? And how does that idea shape the opportunities you try to present students?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Oh, goodness. That happened to me when they said, "You're going to be part of engaged learning." I just had to stop and think, "What is that?" But to me it looks like a student that loves to learn, and it's looking for all kinds of opportunities out there to fulfill that learning desire and that they also care about the community. They want to give back to the community. So the Office of Engaged Learning is a place where the student can find more about national and international fellowships and scholarships for example. We have internships at Baylor and across the country. They can find opportunities in civic engagement. They can find more about research of course. And they can also find more about studying abroad, because we partner with the Center for Global Health. So you can find all these different experiences in the same office. So it's kind of convenient for the student to actually come to our office and they may want to talk about internships and they end up learning more about all these different opportunities. They may end up applying for a Fulbright or a Goldwater. So it's a place where we want to take care of the whole student, not just the academic side. Let's just take care of also helping the community with all the things that the student is learning.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, director of undergraduate research at Baylor, and senior lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry. We've talked a little bit about the Office of Engaged Learning, Dr. Klausmeyer, but what is the Office of Engaged Learning more broadly? How does undergraduate research fit into that?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Our deans wanted to have a hub of undergraduate research, but they also wanted it to be connected to other opportunities, because normally the students that we deal with are highly accomplished. So we wanted them to actually be able to have information about international scholarships, civic engagement, study abroad, not just research. Many students actually want to be part of research, but they didn't know exactly what they want. They want something that's really big, and you have to narrow it down. They don't know how to narrow it down, and they don't know how to approach a professor. So the Office of Undergraduate Research is here to help that type of students. So I already had a role with the Science Research Fellows and B-TRUE and some other pre-health internships. So I was in a great position to take care of the undergraduate research and help the students actually find a position in research that they will enjoy. And it really doesn't need to be in the sciences. I am learning more and more every day about research possibilities in the arts and humanities. And I like them. So it's been kind of fulfilling to help students that I would never have thought that they would be asking me for help. But I help one student actually get an opportunity, and her major was international relationships. So that was so eye opening for me, because I have never heard of that major. I mean, I know that there's a major like that, but I didn't know what it included. So I actually went and researched the major. And when she came we sat down and we talked about all the different possibilities, and that was a very fulfilling experience for her and for me as well.
Derek Smith:That's great. If I were an undergrad student coming to you, Dr. Klausmeyer, but maybe you've talked about helping them find the situation that's right for them, or the opportunity that's right for them. What are some, are there questions that you ask, or what are some of the things you might say to me or ask me to kind of prod me to help find the right fit?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Yes, I would actually sit down with you. Sometimes in my office, sometimes we go to have coffee. But I would start by asking you, "What do you like? What is your major? Why did you pick that major? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are your career plans?" Because if you plan to go to graduate school, then that's a different situation than somebody that wants to go to medical school. They may look the same for some people, but they're completely different situations. So I'll say to them, "We'll talk about that." And then I can narrow down what you would want to do, something that you would enjoy doing. And then I would open my computer and go to the website of that department. And lucky for me, I actually know a lot of what the professors do in lab. So I can go to a particular professor or maybe a couple of professors, and we will look at what the interest of the professors are and compare that to the interest of the student to see if they align. After that then I would try to tell the student how to write an email. And I have noticed that our students are very shy about approaching professors, so that's something that we have to get over. But I can actually just help them writing an email to approach the professor, asking for a position in research. After that, if they need more help on how to actually do ... Well, I cannot help them in the research part, but if they need help with time management or how do they get credit for those classes, then I will be there for the student.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, and Dr. Klausmeyer, thinking more long-term, as students have gone through the programs, engaged in research. Are there any themes that stand out to you when you talk to students about their experience? Or when you even talk to employers, if you do. Because I know there's a lot of research that shows employers tend to like students who have engaged in research.
Rizalia Klausmeyer:And they do, you're correct. Yes, they do. And it's because research teaches you more than just to follow a recipe. When you're doing research, you're getting so much experience in oral and written communication. You're reading a lot. You're learning how to say things in a professional way. You also have to learn quick about time management, because remember that undergraduates have their classes, and research is something they do on the side, unless of course they're taking credit for it. But they have to actually be able to manage how much time they need to study for the classes and how much time they can dedicate to the research. It also teaches you teamwork. It teaches you problem solving, and it gives you the ability to plan ahead, because you have to be planning what you're doing constantly. So you learn so many things from research that it's just not mixing two chemicals and getting something different. You are actually just getting a well-rounded person, and that's what employers want. They want the person that it's well-rounded, they want the one that can work perfectly in a team, that can help each other. So it's an experience that is incredible. Again, you think that you're just doing research, but there's so many things happening that you don't realize that you're learning.
Derek Smith:Well, as we head into the final couple of minutes of the program, Dr. Klausmeyer, looking forward, what impact do you see this increased focus on undergraduate research having on the university and on our students in the years ahead?
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Well, where the university plans to achieve our one status we are going to need the undergraduate students to advance the research. There is much that needs to be done, and we have excellent undergraduate students. And with the right training they can perform at the level of a graduate student. Particularly if they start relatively early, they join a lab or a research professor relatively early and stay until they graduate, they can perform at the level of a graduate student. So I see undergraduate research helping Baylor achieve its R1 goals. That's what I hope happens.
Derek Smith:Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And a lot of lives impacted through the work that they do.
Rizalia Klausmeyer:Yes, yes, yes.
Derek Smith:Well, Dr. Klausmeyer, thanks so much for sharing. It's exciting to see undergraduate research grow here at Baylor and to see all the ways that your office is helping students do that. So thanks so much for taking the time to share with us today.
Rizalia Klausmeyer:And thank you again for inviting me to talk about my passion.
Derek Smith:Thank you very much. Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, director of undergraduate research in Baylor's Office of Engaged Learning, and senior lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry, our guest today here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith, a reminder, you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks so much for joining us here on Baylor connections.