PULLMAN, Wash. – Civil engineer Shelley N. Pressley
is the new director of the campus-wide Undergraduate Research Program in the University College at Washington State University.
Pressley succeeds materials scientist David F. Bahr, the inaugural head of the program since 2006, who will be director of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in the College of Engineering and Architecture.
“It’s a very exciting time for undergraduate researchers and their mentoring faculty at WSU, and I’m honored by the opportunity to have a larger role in the future of this high-impact program,” Pressley said.
Helped develop programs
With a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, Pressley came to WSU to earn her M.S. in environmental engineering and Ph.D. in civil engineering. An assistant research professor, she has studied and worked with WSU Regents Professor Brian Lamb on a number of projects on air-quality research and climate change.
Pressley conducted research as an undergraduate and has been involved in developing and supporting programs that have impacted hundreds of students.
She has assisted Lamb in running two undergraduate summer research programs, including a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in the multidisciplinary Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (LAR) at WSU. Between the two programs, more than 65 students gained hands-on experience between 2006 and 2011.
The LAR REU is one of up to six REUs that have taken place at WSU during each of the past several summers, with coordination among them provided by the Undergraduate Research Program.
Pressley has taught courses in “Measurement Methods for Nitrogen in the Environment” and “Introduction to Meteorology.” She has published numerous scientific articles. In 2008, she participated in the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) Workshop on Institutionalizing Undergraduate Research.
About undergraduate research
At WSU, the number of students actively engaged in research is reported to be around 25 percent. Six years ago, a program to extend undergraduate research to students in all majors and grades was launched in the then Office of Undergraduate Education, led by Bahr. In 2009, the Undergraduate Research Program was one of several student-centered units that came under the umbrella of the university’s 12th and newest college – the University College.
Pressley agreed with Bahr’s definition of undergraduate research, which is much broader than “students in white lab coats.” Rather, it involves many types of “research, scholarship and creative activity conducted with a mentoring faculty member,” and it gives participants the opportunity to “design, create, discover” and share their findings with others in their fields.
In higher-education policy literature, undergraduate research is labeled a “high-impact” practice, one that helps participants have a broader understanding of their world, strengthens their intellectual and practical skills and integrates their learning across disciplines and experiences.
Fellowships, research competitions
Auvil awards taking applications through Sept. 16
Do you mentor undergraduates in any major who are conducting “research, scholarship and creative activity?” Consider encouraging them to apply for an Auvil Scholars Fellowship
The application deadline for these awards of up to $1,000 is 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16.
One of Pressley’s first tasks will be to disseminate Auvil Scholars Fellowships to student applicants participating in research. The awards were created through the estate of WSU alumnus Grady and Lillie Auvil, Wenatchee tree-fruit entrepreneurs. Established in 2006, Auvil awards have been made to more than 100 undergraduates at WSU.
In addition to REU coordination and the Auvil awards, two well-known parts of the Undergraduate Research Program are the summer “boot camp” for new researchers – known as the “Cougar Undergraduate Research Experience”- and the Undergraduate Research Symposium, where students from all majors present posters or make oral presentations about their work and compete for monetary awards.
Shelley Pressley, Director, Undergraduate Research, a program in the University College at WSU, firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-335-5443
Beverly Makhani, Director, Communications, University College, email@example.com, 509-335-6679