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Dr. Lee Phillips: the value of undergraduate research

Posted on Monday, August 19th, 2013 by Eun-Ju Seo under Spotlights
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Repost from Campus Weekly

Article by Mike Harris

Dr. Lee Phillips is the new director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. And he can readily tell you what undergraduate research has meant to him.

As an undergraduate at UNC Wilmington, he walked into the Geology Department and asked, “Do you need a research assistant?”

The professor told them there was a catch. “If you work with me, you’ll have to make a presentation.”

Phillips explains, “He knew I had a less-than-stellar academic record.” Up until that point, that is.

The following March, he gave that presentation at the Southeast Section Meeting of the Geological Society of America.

“An empowering experience,” he explains. He’d had to be dedicated, to follow through – “to deliver results.” It put him on a new trajectory. For the first time, he considered graduate school. As a master’s student and doctoral student, he mentored undergraduates.

“It was fun to learn in a group setting – as a mentor and as a mentee.” He adds, “I think I have learned more as a mentor.”

The UNCG Office of Undergraduate Research supports undergraduate research on our campus in a variety of ways including awards for undergraduate research and creativity, an annual celebration of undergraduate scholarship at UNCG, and travel awards for undergraduates presenting the results of their work at various conferences and meetings.

Phillips wants faculty to know the office supports those who want to engage undergraduates in scholarly research and creative activities.

“Our office recognizes scholarship across all academic disciplines,” he adds.

Phillips had been associate professor of geology at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He was also the director of the UNCP Undergraduate Research and Creativity Center.

He earned degrees at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (B.S. and M.S in geology) and The University of Iowa (Ph.D. in geoscience).

Now, rock and sand samples fill one part of his office in UNCG’s Undergraduate Studies division in McIver Building. Geology remains a passion. But seeing undergraduates grow academically through discovery of conducting research has become his focus.

He knows what it did for him.

Our university will make the same difference in many students’ lives.

Article by Mike Harris

Photography by Ananya Huria
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