New Center Propels Undergraduate Student Research

What makes a successful graduate?

Is it hands-on learning on and off campus?

The opportunity to explore and tailor a personal academic path?

Or is it being able to immerse themselves in an enriching environment of school pride?

At Johnson & Wales, we say “all of the above” — providing opportunities for students like Paige Sonido ’23 to take their learning to the next level.

“I am extremely grateful for the wonderful and unique experiences I’ve had here,” Sonido, a Health Science student, said.

Last fall, Sonido won the Owen Manahan Award, presented to a health or public health student in Rhode Island who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of public health in the state. Sonido credits many aspects of her JWU education, but at the top of her list is the university’s newly launched Undergraduate Research Center (URC).

“Through the URC, in the past year and a half, I’ve been able to publish a peer-reviewed article in Rhode Island Medical Journal and attend the American Public Health Association Conference through the URC,” Sonido said.

The mission of the URC is to facilitate research experiences for undergraduates and faculty members across departments, colleges, and campuses. Sonido believes that her time in the URC has not only fostered her experience as a JWU student but it’s also helped solidify her next steps in her professional journey.

“Through the URC ... I’ve been able to publish a peer-reviewed article in Rhode Island Medical Journal and attend the American Public Health Association Conference.”

“I’m starting a new adventure at Northeastern University’s PA Program in August 2023, and the faculty at Northeastern were fascinated by the projects we’ve accomplished at the URC,” Sonido said. “I plan to recreate some of these projects in their program, and I am extremely grateful for the wonderful and unique experiences I’ve had here.”

Fostering Interdisciplinary Research

The URC, housed on the first floor of the John Hazen White academic building, was launched by JWU’s College of Health & Wellness in the fall of 2022 as part of a three-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant.

“The Undergraduate Research Center strengthens collaborative research at JWU by bringing together research-interested students and faculty to cultivate a community of research in various ways,” Associate Professor and URC Director Samantha Rosenthal, Ph.D., said.

VIDEO: LEARN ABOUT PROFESSOR SAMANTHA ROSENTHAL RESEARCH ON THE IMPACT OF MOBILE SCREEN TIME ON DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS IN COLLEGE STUDENTS. ROSENTHAL ALSO OVERSEES THE UNIVERSITY’S UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH CENTER (URC).

Before teaching at JWU, Rosenthal developed her career working on pharmaceutical and vaccine development as a chemical engineer and developing new medical devices as a biomedical engineer. Now she runs the center, which supports directed educational experiences for specific research projects, offers research workshops and regularly highlights student research across the university.

“We offer student-led workshops that include topics like presentation skills, advocacy, writing an abstract or creating a high-quality poster or presentation,” Rosenthal explained. “We also host accessible, student-led discussions on topics such as food insecurity on college campuses, discrimination in healthcare, living with a disability in college and the impact of nature on mental health.”

It’s an opportunity, she says, to open students’ eyes to view things through a research lens and leave with concrete research skills, a strong sense of community, greater critical thinking and intellectual curiosity, and a true understanding of how to advance a field of knowledge.

“Having a center like this on campus makes research accessible to students across the university,” Rosenthal said. “Whether it's attending a workshop, engaging in a meaningful discussion, or enrolling for a directed educational experience to dig into a whole research project, students can come to the URC to find a way to get involved.”

All students are eligible to participate in the URC programming, regardless of their field of study. Students interested in applying can reach out to the Undergraduate Research Center (URC@jwu.edu) for additional support and to learn more.

Related Reading

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