UMD student creates app to help students find research opportunities

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For many students, gaining research experience is part of the “college experience”. But finding research opportunities isn’t always the easiest.

For example, first-year computer science student Pranav Dulepet developed an iPhone app called CollegeRO to make it easier for undergraduates to pursue research opportunities by modernizing access to information in the College’s student researcher database. Maryland.

At the University of Maryland, the Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research maintains the Maryland Research Student Database while consulting with students on pursuing research and administering the annual Maryland Summer Fellowship program, which funds independent research that students can perform under faculty mentorship.

The database contains approximately 200 opportunities per semester which are submitted by faculty members from all colleges and research centers using a form on the website. Each listing includes information about the project the faculty member is requesting help with, required skills, contact details, and keywords, which are useful for filtering projects.

Last summer, Dulepet scoured the database for research opportunities that would interest him in the future. After experimenting with his own research, he wanted to improve the process of finding opportunities at this and other universities.

“I found this to be a pretty unique way of listing all of these opportunities because few other schools I know of have something similar or something so readily available,” he said.

CollegeRO is more mobile-friendly than the existing database and allows users to set notifications for projects filtered by keywords and specs, Dupelet said.

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The first version of the app, UMDRO, was released on the App Store before the start of the fall semester, but was renamed CollegeRO to expand the app to serve other universities after seeing success in this university, said Dulepet.

MCUR Graduate Studies Coordinator Lisa Carney and Principal Francis DuVinage coordinated with Dulepet to make the experience optimal for students, such as allowing posts on the app to be updated in real time with the center database.

“It was very collaborative and just a very exciting thing to find a way to bring more students to the content that we have,” Carney said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is to get students to these lists so they can contact professors.”

Some freshmen have found the app particularly helpful in learning about research opportunities and hot topics in their fields.

Pavan Varthakavi, a first-year computer science and economics student, said he looked for computer science opportunities on the app but ultimately didn’t pursue any.

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“It’s a bit difficult to do it outside of the app because [there are] like so many places you have to check … so many people you have to communicate with,” he said. “The app really centralizes it.”

Freshman computer science student Shrey Varma recently downloaded CollegeRO. He doesn’t expect to be involved in research this early in his academic career, but he used the app to find out what he might do in the future.

Although Varma isn’t sure what he’d like to work on and has more experience in his major to gain, he said he’ll know where to look when the time comes.

Carney explained that undergraduate research is part of experiential learning and is available in the arts and humanities and “not just for STEM students.”

“Anyone in any field can do research as an undergraduate,” Carney said. “[It] can really improve your overall college experience [and] complementing your courses giving you this really hands-on experience and can lead to some really cool things.

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