Students this year at the University of Colorado Boulder are participating in undergraduate research in unprecedented ways.

Students work collaboratively and across disciplines to control satellites in space, work on biomedical advances, develop clean energy or create marketing campaigns.

Natasha Powell, a triple major in biology, biochemistry and neuroscience is a member of the research team of CU Boulder Nobel laureate Tom Cech examining mutations in different types of cancer cells. (Professor Cech also teaches undergraduate chemistry.)

Students in physics, mechanical engineering, aeronautics and astrophysical science are exploring how planets form with an instrument on the New Horizons spacecraft exploring Pluto and the outer limits of the solar system. It’s the first student-built instrument on a NASA planetary mission.

In another high-profile space mission, CU Boulder students are managing NASA’s Kepler space probe as it orbits the sun 55 million miles from Earth searching for new planets. Meanwhile students continue to gather exciting data from Mars sent by our MAVEN explorer which entered Martian orbit in 2014.

Such experiential learning is not confined to the sciences but includes our CU in D.C. program in which students work and study in the nation’s capital through internships in the arts, humanities, nonprofits and the federal government, including Congress.

These opportunities enrich the undergraduate experience and it is the fulfillment of the modern research university. It prepares students for productive collaboration in the 21st century workplace or for graduate school.

Undergraduate research is the ultimate interactive learning and it’s a lynchpin for my initiatives on student success.


Philip P DiStefano

Philip P. DiStefano, Chancellor
University of Colorado Boulder