CHARLESTON, W.Va. West Virginia University (WVU) and many others will participate in Undergraduate Research Day (URDC) in Charleston on Thursday. Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Amy Hessl, said nearly 50 students and their research mentors will make the trip to share their research in-person with lawmakers.

“They meet up with undergraduate students from several other institutions in West Virginia and give presentations to legislators at the Capitol,” Hessl said.

The students come from all disciplines and will present on topics like cultural issues, reproductive dysfunction, and place-based health disparities in the state. The event puts the student on the stage to present, explain, and answer questions about their creative solution to a problem or new technology that could improve their quality of life.

“You can be in the Reed College of Media, or you could be in any of the STEM fields,” Hessl said. “So, we have a wide variety of student projects.”

Some of the students have already presented the ideas locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally, while others are very knowledgeable but could be a little nervous making the presentation.

“They get really nervous—nervous excitement leading up to this—and they practice a lot,” Hessl said. “When one of them really connects with a lawmaker, it’s really special.”

Hessl said that in many cases, these students represent the future leaders and problem solvers the state will rely on for decades to come. Additionally, she said this is a rare undergraduate opportunity that few students have.

“Sometimes the research is very applied, and you can see immediately the benefits that training these students is going to have for a community in the state,” Hessl said. ” But sometimes it’s a little longer view that we need to take about research and development.”

The WVU Foundation has invested $400,000 in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program administered by the Office of the Provost over a three-year period. The SURE program increases positions and stipends for students to participate in paid research opportunities with faculty mentors.

“That’s the relationship that really matters,” Hessl said. “They get a great connection with a professor, and the professor really helps them take off in their career.”