The Importance of Undergraduate Research
By: Chelsea Pfaffly
Hometown: Pleasant Valley, MO
Major: Civil Engineering
Clubs: SWE, Undergrad Research
Favorite class: Strength of Materials
Favorite place to study: Study rooms by the CME faculty offices
Why you chose UMKC: The opportunities and small class sizes
Participating in undergraduate research has always been on my bucket list. It is one of the most influential experiences that a college student can have. This summer I applied for the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (SUROP) grant. Even though I was only a sophomore in the engineering program and I still had much to learn, I knew I could apply the knowledge I had to real life applications.
When it came to choosing what topic I wanted to focus my research on Dr. Hart, a civil engineering professor, helped guide me. She told me about her research on environmental concrete and I was super intrigued! The research I did focused on trying to collect the heavy metals from pervious concrete. I was excited about this experiment because if I could prove that the metals could be extracted, pervious concrete could be used as an economical solution to clean up mining spills. Because of this experience, I was able to spend my summer in a lab expanding my knowledge outside of the classroom and diving deeper into my interest in geotechnical engineering.
The biggest benefit for me was learning to think on my feet. Since I was conducting my own research, I was in charge of coming up with the procedure for the experiment. Quick thinking and innovation are not skills that can be learned in the classroom. They are developed through hands-on experience. During my research, when things didn’t go as I had planned, I had to resolve the issue on my own and be creative.
I am so glad I was able to have this opportunity. When someone asks me what my most meaningful college experience was, I proudly say, “My summer of undergraduate research!”