Showcasing Undergraduate Research

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CUREJ will be an outlet for undergraduate research—and even art (such as this untitled painting by Monica Haak C’05).

Those long, lonely nights in the library are about to pay off for Penn’s undergraduate researchers looking to share their work with a wider audience.

Starting this spring, a new undergraduate journal will make traditional academic research papers, as well as multimedia projects, viewable online. While there will not be a print version of the College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal (CUREJ), the 200 or so projects featured in each issue will remain accessible through the website’s archives.

“Undergraduate research print journals are, almost by their very nature, obscure,” explains College Dean Dennis DeTurck G’78 Gr’80, who is largely responsible for creating CUREJ. “They’re very ephemeral. With a web-based journal, the stuff can be permanent, rather than disappearing after a few people see it.”

In the past few years, the College has been encouraging undergraduate research through new initiatives, including research-oriented courses and University-funded internships. CUREJ will provide an outlet for this research.

“There’s already a medium for faculty and graduate students to publish their research,” DeTurck says. “Undergraduate research has a different character. Many of these students are doing this for the first time.”

Department chairs and program heads will begin selections for the first volume of CUREJ this month, and the journal will go public late this spring. In addition to research papers, the journal will showcase images, animation, films, and music compositions. “We’re open to pretty much anything,” DeTurck says.

CUREJ is not the first undergraduate research journal at Penn. Existing publications include the Penn History Review, Perspectives in Psychology, and Res—a collaboration between the Critical Writing Program and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF). DeTurck would like CUREJ to collaborate with some of these journals, not to “take over their business.”

CURF Director Art Casciato agrees that the new journal will not conflict with publications like Res. “Whether preserved in print or electronically, it allows students and faculty alike to see what’s been done, not just recently, but in the past as well,” he says. “It’s much more suggestive of the comprehensive achievement undergraduates are capable of as individual researchers.”

Dr. Ponzy Lu, professor of chemistry, is concerned with the use of the word journal in referring to the new web-based research showcase. In an e-mail to DeTurck and other College administrators, Lu wrote that he is “not a fan of undergraduate ‘journals’ that shadow the real thing at major research organizations.”

He explained that the term journal “implies peer review, and raising of standards of scholarship and experimental rigor [which] takes many years, if not generations.”

While Casciato acknowledges that the bar may be set slightly lower for undergraduate research, he still stresses the importance of making this work available in print and online. “No one is going to confuse publication [in CUREJ] with publication in professional journals at the faculty level,” he says. “What we’re doing is honoring and acknowledging and saving.”

—Molly Petrilla C’06

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