Program Overview
Program Overview

The Catherine J. Randall Research Scholars Program is a nationally recognized interdisciplinary undergraduate research program that pairs exceptional and highly motivated students directly with leading research professors and cutting-edge information management technology to complete scholarly research projects in diverse fields of study. Regardless of the field that students intend to pursue, the skills they develop in applying research methods, project management and problem-solving techniques will contribute to their success in any academic pursuit or future career.

Founded in 1968 as the Computer-Based Honors Program, the Randall Research Scholars Program (RRSP) was the nation's first interdisciplinary undergraduate research program and has been cited as one of the six most intriguing research programs in the country by the National Institute of Education. After over 50 years of tradition and excellence, RRSP continues to be an innovative leader in connecting undergraduate students to research opportunities.

Students whose careers will be defined through their research endeavors are accepted into the program during their final year of high school through a highly selective application process. During their freshman year, RRS students complete an intensive series of courses on problem-solving techniques, information technology fundamentals, project management principles, and research fundamentals. These essential skills enable students to quickly learn and adapt to the new knowledge domains and technical environments required for faculty-directed research projects.

Throughout their sophomore to senior years, RRS students will select research projects to work on with a faculty member who will serve as their project director. Students are required to present their research to a diverse range of audience members, venues, and media to facilitate knowledge transfer and professional growth. Students will typically work on projects in areas related to their academic discipline; however, they may elect to work in an unrelated field to challenge themselves and broaden their exposure to academic disciplines and research.

RRS Word Art

Word map from student responses about RRSP

Program Objectives

The mission of RRSP is to guide students to achieve the highest level of research in terms of quality, depth, and professionalism and to foster an interdisciplinary community of students who push one another to new heights. Through this experience, students learn how to conduct research employing computing technologies associated with the study of a research phenomenon. The student, in consultation with the Program Director, shall choose a research project and work under the mentorship of a faculty member in a selected field of study. The faculty member will serve as a project director and the student will serve as a research assistant. The student and faculty member will negotiate a contract for the scope of work the student is to accomplish during the specified academic period. The student will participate in the project design, execution, interpretation, and communication of the results of the project. The project director will be responsible for supervision of the student and evaluating the quality, depth, timeliness, and professionalism associated with the student's work process and product.

Through this program, students will develop skills and competencies to conduct and interpret research and will learn to:

• Read critically to pose questions and identify key issues to explore; analyze and explain the logic, line of reasoning, and validity of an argument; and to use theoretical frameworks, appropriate methodologies, and analytic techniques to systematically explore issues, objects, ideas, or problems.

• Investigate and effectively apply technology to the research process. Students will learn about the foundations of information management technologies as well as technologies used to facilitate the execution of activities at various phases of a research project.

• Think critically in order to identify, compare, and interpret multiple perspectives about an issue and to evaluate objections, implications, and limitations of alternate perspectives

• Innovate: Students will be able to identify and practice the necessary relationships between creativity, risk, failure, and resiliency. Students will be able to synthesize ideas and formulate a well-reasoned argument using data and information from various sources to develop and support an argument.

• Communicate effectively: Students will be intentional about practicing the skills of speech, writing, and other forms of communication while considering audience, context, and purpose while striving to become engaged participants in the conversations that shape our world.

• Reason and Act ethically: Students will learn how to balance the expression of their own voices, values, and ideas with those that come from listening to others, and learn why this balance is necessary for the advancement of knowledge and society. Students will explore potential implications of their research.

More information on the course requirements can be found here.

Class Structure

Freshman Year

Each freshman semester consists of a four hour class. During the first semester, students learn the basics of computer hardware, networking, and programming. At the end of the first semester, freshmen complete a large programming project. Students dive deeper into programming in the second semester, learning how multiple languages can mix together to create a finished product. By the end of the freshman classes, students gain a better understanding of data management and computer programming that they can utilize in their future research

The freshmen classes are taught by our freshman instructor Mr. Darren Evans Young. He has taught the introductory classes for RRSP for over 30 years. You can read more about him here.

Seminar

Following successful completion of the two freshmen courses, students must take 4 semesters of RRS Research Seminar courses. It is required that the first semester of seminar be taken immediately following RRSP 102, but the remaining seminars can be taken in any order. This gives students flexibility to study abroad or complete an internship or co-op. Seminars are 3 hour courses: 1 hour is spent in the classroom with the RRS director, and the remaining 2 hours are completed through work on an independent research project. Students typically spend 10-12 hours per week on their research projects. During the classroom portion of the seminars, students develop professional skills such as research pitches, presentations, and interviews. They also participate in round table discussions/debates and learn how to communicate their research initiatives to an audience. RRS students present their research at RRS Live in the fall and complete poster presentations in the spring. Seminar is also a place where students may lean on each other to brainstorm or work through any issues in their research projects. These small seminar style classes increase the community within RRSP and allow students to learn from a wide range of disiplines.

Seminar is taught by our program director, Dr. Jeff Gray. You can read more about him here.

Life in the Program

If you ask students what their favorite part of RRSP is, many will say the community within the program, in fact, RRSP is known as a family. The program hosts many social events to increase the community among students. RRSP has a computer lab designated for the program, and many students use this space to meet with study groups, work on their projects, or to simply socialize with other RRS students. The community dimension of RRS-PRO hosts many events throughout the year such as potlucks for Thanksgiving or other holidays, Halloween parties, Valentine's Day events, or jeopardy nights. Many students also participate in intramural sports through RRSP.

RRS lab

The main area of the RRS Lab

One of the largest social events every year is Homecoming. RRSP has placed first in our category many years and the program has a history of doing well in the different Homecoming events. As part of Homecoming, RRSP constructs a lawn decoration, has teams for bowling and dodgeball, sends students to participate in service projects, and has painted a local business in past years as part of Paint the Town Red. There are many online social groups as well that Alumni can participate in that further increase the sense of community within the program even after students have graduated.

Homecoming Float

2018 RRSP Homecoming art