By Kristen Mitchell
A new academic journal that highlights research completed by George Washington University undergraduate students will launch next week. The GW Undergraduate Review features papers that span the diverse range of disciplines students engage with during their academic careers.
The GW Undergraduate Review is a student-led initiative supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Sophomore Margaret Steiner, who is majoring in applied mathematics, was inspired to start a journal for undergraduate STEM research while seeking research opportunities during her freshman year. She approached two friends from the GW Women’s Leadership Program, Aleksandra Dagunts and Delaney Foster, and together they started the student organization, also called GW Undergraduate Review, that would make the journal a reality.
Ms. Steiner, editor-in-chief of the journal, hopes the journal creates more buzz around the exciting work being done by undergraduate students. She has been working as a research assistant at GW’s Computational Biology Institute since her freshman year.
“There’s no lack of opportunities to do research at GW, but a lot of people don’t know the opportunities are there,” she said. “Having a journal, I see it as a way to just make that more visible.”
The first edition of GW Undergraduate Review features seven papers, which will be available to read in print and online on April 19. While the journal was once planned as STEM-centric, the final iteration was open to submissions from all academic fields. Four of the papers focus on social sciences and humanities and three relate to STEM fields.
Ms. Steiner said she was pleasantly surprised to receive about 30 submissions for the first issue of the new journal.
“I take that as a testament to the amount of research going on and the quality,” she said. “We had to make some tough decisions about what to publish...there were a lot of very good submissions.”
The GW Undergraduate Review will mark the launch with an event on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in Science and Engineering Hall’s Lehman Auditorium and lower level commons. GW President Thomas LeBlanc is expected to deliver remarks.
Vice President for Research Leo M. Chalupa said The GW Undergraduate Review will enrich the experience of student researchers.
“The journal will give students an opportunity to learn new skills while highlighting original research and scholarship conducted by their peers,” he said. “Supporting this project was one of the easiest decisions I have made as Vice President for Research. I am impressed by the student editors and their commitment to promoting undergraduate research at GW."
The papers were reviewed by peer editors from a range of academic fields. Submissions were reviewed based on guidelines developed by editors with feedback from a faculty review board. The student editorial board used those guidelines to determine whether a paper should be accepted for publication.
Two field-specific research journals for undergraduate students already are being published at GW. The GLOBE, for international affairs research, and GW Historical Review, for topics in American and world history. GW Law and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences students also publish research journals.
Research has been an influential part of Ms. Dagunts’ academic career. A sophomore majoring in biology and associate editor of the GW Undergraduate Review, Ms. Dagunts has focused on biomedical research with internships at the National Institutes of Health and in a Milken Institute School of Public Health toxicology lab.
These experiences have been valuable in determining the type of work she wants to pursue in the future. She said that she hopes the GW Undergraduate Review highlights opportunities available to students and inspires more underclassmen to get involved in future research.
"It's easy to say 'I want to do research,’ but until you have experienced both the excitement and frustration that can come with engaging in a research project, you have no way of knowing if that's really what you want to spend your life doing,” she said.
Ms. Steiner said getting involved in research was the best decision she’s made at GW. The opportunity to focus on a specific subject for an extended period of time is distinct from the work she has done in the classroom. She encourages her peers to reach out to faculty who are doing interesting work about opportunities in their lab.
“I’ve never had a professor be offended about me wanting to learn more about their work,” she said.
Ms. Foster, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering and currently studying abroad in Ireland, said the group’s efforts to promote the journal through events for students, social media and posters on campus were successful. The student organization plans to continue to promote research throughout the academic year through events on career development and research skills.
“Seeing how far we have come in just one year is incredible,” she said.