Hooray! We have our first guest blog by Director of Research, Alona Bach.
The concept of academic research, and particularly undergraduate research (outside the classroom), has been associated with the image of white lab coats, fancy laboratories, Erlenmeyer flasks and more often than not, an unreachable, mysterious, time-consuming activity saved for the most talented and most elite students. At BMCC, we are redefining what it means to be a student engaged in undergraduate research.
BMCC has become my template for rediscovering and redefining what academic research really is. While the fundamental attributes of a researcher remain, and will always include, persistence, consistency, commitment, patience and the fundamental existence of a thick skin, the predictive validity of age-old characteristics for a successful researcher such as GPA, age, gender, year in school or socio-economic status are proving to be outdated and perhaps defunct.
While BMCC does harbor an incredibly beautiful and fancy research laboratory (or two or three) and certainly has its fair share of lab coats and Erlenmeyer flasks, the student engaged in research at BMCC is a community college student. This community college student is more than likely to be an under-represented minority student with a job, family obligations and a full course load. The student may be in his or her first semester at BMCC or 2nd ,3rd or 8th or 9th semester at the college… and may have at one point required remedial coursework. Yet this student will ultimately publish in a peer-reviewed academic journal with his or her faculty mentor and present his or her work at a national academic conference.
This is what the undergraduate researcher looks like at BMCC. We have grown to a critical mass of such student researchers across all disciplines with the guidance and leadership of stellar faculty researchers. Does that make BMCC a fledgling research institute? I believe that we are.
BMCC is pioneering a new path for fundable, novel research of the caliber that is competitive with many of the reputed research institutes in academia. To add momentum to our growing research culture and community, our concept of the undergraduate researcher is being supported and nourished by an evolving and ever present role of the faculty research mentor. Faculty researchers are provided an infrastructure to create and build their research agendas. They are provided training in grant writing and financial support to train and groom student researchers as their apprentices. The faculty and student researchers feed into each other’s fundamental drive to create and discover.
This reciprocal, creativity driven relationship results in an intellectual breeding ground full of untapped talent and endless potential. So while undergraduate researchers at BMCC will spend countless hours with their mentors working on their projects just like any other researcher out there, the drive, the will and the bravery to commit these countless hours (that they fundamentally don’t have) comes from the purest of places- the essential “need to know.” It’s curiosity that drives all research.
As a result of the College’s investment in research and the work of our faculty and students in building a research community, BMCC is gaining traction and recognition from administrators in higher ed, funding agencies and discipline-specific research communities. This has likely increased the number of excellent successful faculty and high caliber students that we attract which only feeds into our continued growth as a research-heavy community college. This positive feedback loop drives the college into unchartered territory where the community college student becomes the face of the undergraduate researcher.
Dr. Alona Bach, Director of Research