Researcher wearing gloves scooping fish in a research lab tank

Starting down the path to discovery with undergraduate research

UWM offers more than 1,000 undergraduate research opportunities annually, and more than 500 of them involve paid positions. In fact, research is woven so tightly into UWM’s academic culture that over half of our students have undergraduate research experience by the time they graduate. Here’s just a glimpse of some of the projects our students have worked on.

Two geoscience undergrad researchers on beach looking at rocks and fossils

Rene Chavez & Mikayla Walker

Lake Michigan’s present-day shoreline looked quite different between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago, its geography mostly featuring marshes and bogs. Juniors Walker and Chavez are studying fossils deposited during that time to learn more about its ecosystems. They say their work in a Cudahy-area lakeshore park with geosciences lecturer Scott Schaefer is like stepping back in time. Both are also involved in GO FoRWARD, a program to encourage more people of color to go into the geosciences. And Chavez, who is bilingual, has translated booklets and field guides into Spanish for Milwaukee Public Schools students who visit the site with their teachers. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

UWM undergrad researcher Xai Osa looking over shoulder in row of theatre seats

Xai Osa

Osa took a movement and turned it into an opera. The senior double music major is working toward her BA in vocal performance and her BFA in composition/technology. Under the guidance of Amanda Schoofs, a senior lecturer in composition & technology at the Peck School of the Arts, Osa researched the #MeToo movement. She wove screenshots of online messages into fictional characters for a micro-opera, “Echo Ascension: Her Voice is Heard,” which was performed once before the pandemic hit. The opera, Osa says, is about the power of sharing your story, how that affects other people and how it can help them make the next step in their healing. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

Undergrad researcher standing in front of research tank holding a blue net

Emma Kraco

Yellow perch are a staple of aquaculture and coveted by the dining public in the Great Lakes region. Kraco, a senior and a UW System water fellow, has researched different ways of raising the perch, particularly how they’re affected by water temperature and salinity as they grow from the embryo and larval stages. This is important, Kraco says, because climate change is making the Great Lakes warmer and saltier. Under mentor Dong Fang Deng, a senior scientist in the School of Freshwater Sciences, she’s also looking at how microplastics in the water may affect yellow perch. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

Undergrad researcher Seresa McDowell standing in front of building with arms crossed

Seresa McDowell

As a senior in biochemistry, McDowell worked in the Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery. She helped design and construct molecules that are sufficiently water soluble so they can be studied in organisms. Such work aims to find better ways to use the molecules in developing new and rejuvenating older drugs. McDowell worked in the lab of Alan Schwabacher, associate professor of chemistry, and the research was part of a collaboration with Harvard University. That’s where McDowell went after her December 2020 graduation, thanks to a postbaccalaureate research position there. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)