Valencia College has developed an undergraduate research initiative — based on nationally recognized models — that expands opportunities for students to partner meaningfully with faculty members to pursue a specific course of research. As most community colleges only offer undergraduate research as a very small boutique opportunity for a few students, Valencia has become a leader in community college research. Last year, hundreds of Valencia students worked in one or more modalities of research. This is vital for students exploring STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) -related professions through transfer, both to better discern their purpose and pathway, and to have experiences comparable to their peers at the university to which they transfer.
When student Marina Worden graduates from Valencia College with an Associate in Arts in May, she plans to enroll in the University of Central Florida’s Biomedical Sciences-Neuroscience bachelor’s degree program. With the end goal of obtaining a Ph.D. in neuroscience and pursuing a career in research in a laboratory or university setting, she knew that gaining skills in research was important early in her educational journey.
In 2018, Marina learned about the Seneff Honors College and applied to the Undergraduate Research track. Then she launched her research experience with the course, Honors Research Process with Professor of Education Jane Maguire, followed by completing an Honors research project under the guidance of her mentor, Part-time Faculty of Psychology Dale Maynard. Her project, “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Autism” involved investigating the academic learning experiences of undergraduate students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“For me, research is both an opportunity for growth and discovery on the part of the researcher and a rigorous process for developing knowledge to advance the quality of human life,” Marina shared, adding that she has always loved science and learning new things.
“Research has benefited my acquisition of the skills and knowledge needed in my chosen career field,” she said. “It has expanded my knowledge of neuroscience and helped me develop many skills vital to practice in the field, including critical evaluation of scientific claims, analysis of data, creative problem solving and communication.”
To nominate a student doing great undergraduate research or for questions about Valencia’s undergraduate research initiative, contact Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, and coordinator of undergraduate research, at UR@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 5632.