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Two Professors Get Chancellor's Award

Plant Cell Biologist, Sociologist Recognized for Supporting Undergraduate Research

Thomas Eulgem and Steven Brint are recognized for fostering high-quality
research from their undergraduate students.

(June 28, 2006)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — Sociologist Steven Brint and Plant Cell Biologist Thomas Eulgem have been chosen the 2005-2006 recipients of the Chancellor’s Award to the Faculty Mentor for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research.

The Award was established in 1994 to recognize faculty members who have distinguished themselves through their excellence at fostering undergraduate research or creative activity. Students nominate the faculty mentors considered for the award. The UCR Academic Senate — the faculty governing body — certifies the award recipients.

Steven Brint, an authority on comparative education, American higher education, the sociology of professions, and middle-class politics, organizes undergraduate research groups to engage his students more deeply than could be done with lectures alone. He has taught these classes the past three years as an extra teaching load. He arrived at UCR in 1993 after seven years at Yale University.

“My experience suggests that students respond much better to group projects involving active learning, and especially projects that result in tangible results,” Brint said.

Brint’s latest undergraduate research project surveyed teachers in 25 schools, in five school districts about their views of the No Child Left Behind Act. Brint designed the research and is writing the resulting paper, but his students wrote the questionnaires and interview protocols, distributed them and followed up with teachers. The students also analyzed vulnerabilities to the validity of the sampling design and responses.

In Thomas Eulgem’s two-and-a-half years at UCR, he has given nine undergraduate students research opportunities in his research laboratory, which focuses on the genetic workings of the plant immune system.

“I realized early in my career that undergraduate research programs are valuable for the development of students and that they tend to rise to the challenges,” he said. “As an undergraduate student in Germany, I was involved in two research projects and liked them very much, but they were only for one month at a time.”

By contrast, Eulgem tries to keep his undergraduate researchers for one to two years, and seeks out funding sources to allow them to work full time over the summer if they desire.

In the past, he has secured National Science Foundation (NSF) support for summer work. Eulgem is serving this year as interim director of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the Center for Plant Cell Biology, a program funded by the NSF. In that capacity, he recruited this year's group of 10 undergraduate students from colleges and universities across the country to participate in the 10-week residential summer program.

“I found that undergraduate students bring a great deal of creativity to research if they are properly motivated and supervised,” he said. “Research encourages them to work independently and to develop a degree of esprit in their work.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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