by Rachel Clarke, A15
The Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE) launched the
Research Opportunities for Graduate and Undergraduate Education
(ROGUE) program last year to promote collaboration between graduate
and undergraduate students at Tufts. ROGUE helps to connect graduate
students who seek research assistance with undergraduates who want
to gain research experience.
Undergraduates in both the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering have become increasingly interested in environmental research, says TIE Program Director Nolan Nicaise. In the past, TIE connected undergraduates with graduate student mentors on a case-by-case basis. The ROGUE program has formalized the process and made it easier for research teams to connect via a website where graduate students can post research assistant positions to which undergraduates can apply. "The process is pretty independent," says Nicaise. "We want them to a find a fit that is best for their specific research."
Kuhl says it is extremely helpful to have two undergraduates work with her. "There's a huge demand both for graduate students seeking research assistants and for undergraduates seeking research opportunities," says Kuhl. Although the ROGUE program is still young, Kuhl hopes that more undergraduate and graduate students will take advantage of it in the future. She believes there is a need for similar programs in other disciplines beyond environmental studies. "There are graduate students working on research in many disciples who would surely appreciate the help from undergraduates seeking research experiences," says Kuhl.
Jamie Picardy, a doctoral student in the Agriculture, Food, and Environment program at Tufts Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, says that with the support of research assistant, Emily Nixon, A15, she expanded the primary data collection for her dissertation, which focuses on production and consumption of regionally-raised meat. Picardy and Nixon collected data from 350 customers shopping at specialty retail markets in greater Boston about purchase practices, preferences for animal production, labeling knowledge and willingness-to-pay for production characteristics.
In addition to their academic partnership, Picardy has also been acting as a personal mentor to Nixon, an economics and anthropology major. "Emily's interest in sustainable agriculture and her knowledge of economics strongly contributed to the success of this TIE research assistantship," says Picardy. "This fall, we will be analyzing the data together, and discussing the results. I believe that we make a great team."
The students involved with ROGUE believe the program offers tremendous benefits to those interested in environmental research. ROGUE now has five teams working on varied research projects.
Laura Corlin, a master's degree candidate in environmental health, works with undergraduates Cara Goodman, E15, and Joanna Stowell, E15, on air pollution research related to the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study. Nicole Tichenor, a doctoral candidate at The Friedman School, works with political science major Samuel Williams, A16, on a project related to the environmental impacts of beef production in the United States.
Nicaise looks forward to maximizing the ROGUE program's potential. He hopes that eventually all ROGUE undergraduate research assistants will be compensated for their work, and to increase outreach efforts to involve more students. "ROGUE has a lot of potential for a program that is only one year old," says Nicaise.