Turning undergraduates into research VIPs

Undergraduate students will soon be able to earn academic credit and gain in-depth experience for up to three years' participation in major research projects, thanks to a new program.

UC Davis has been awarded $160,000 over two years to launch a new site of the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, so named for the way it involves students from sophomore through senior years in the research-based learning.

Now a member of the VIP Consortium of 16 universities, UC Davis is effectively sharing in a $5 million grant The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust made to the consortium to expand the VIP model.

VIP aims to transform education in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and encourage historically underrepresented students to pursue STEM education. UC Davis will include agriculture and veterinary medicine.

"It's a good fit for UC Davis," said Subra Muralidharan, a visiting professor in molecular and cellular biology and one of the three co-directors of the UC Davis program.

STEM fields, ag and vet med

By working longer in large teams on multidisciplinary research projects, Muralidharan said, UC Davis students will have the opportunity to practice skills, make substantial contributions and serve different roles.

As early as spring quarter, up to 36 undergraduates will be able to participate on one of nine projects. They include:

  • Studying sudden oak death
  • Designing nanoscale drugs for one of the deadliest forms of cancer
  • Predicting the potency and effectiveness of stem cell therapies
  • Examining the landscape architecture of the Hunt Hall courtyard on campus

Muralidharan said he foresees the program including fields such as the social sciences as it expands.

Academic and teaching credits

Students will earn letter grades and be required to critique research papers, participate in lab discussions, maintain lab notebooks and write periodical reports on research progress.

The program will also provide support for 16 undergraduates to continue with the program over the summer.

Mentoring faculty will receive teaching credits.

Muralidharan said the program also addresses employers' needs for graduates with hands-on experience and problem-solving skills.


The Science and Society program of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will provide course management support, and the VIP program will use existing SAS 98 and 198 courses for directed group study.

The Educational Effectiveness Hub within Undergradaute Education will provide general administrrative and computer technology support. One of the project teams, on practical learning analytics for undergradaute education, may also compare VIP participation to ther forms of research involvement.

Muralidharan's co-directors are David Rizzo, professor of plant pathology; and Daniel Cox, distinguished professor of physics.

For more information, contact Muralidharan by email.

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Media Resources

Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

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