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Startup Eyes Diverse Populations for Student-Faculty Research Collaboration

NEW YORK ― ScholarBridge, a two-year-old New York tech startup linking students with researchers, is growing in reach among schools with diverse student populations.

Having announced in January that Clark-Atlanta University (CAU) had become the first HBCU to adopt its online platform in order to expand student-professor research collaborations, the company will go into the fall with a user base tapping into the underserved market.

080316_Guillermo_Rosas“CAU took the lead in a remarkable way,” said Michael Rauch, who serves as chief executive officer of Manhattan-based ScholarBridge. He said that CAU immediately opened access to the platform for all of its 2,600 students.

To date, 15 universities have signed with the education tracking and analytics firm. Undergraduate and graduate research officers are among those who use the program  in order to automate and monitor the process of matching student researchers with mentors. This new efficiency is expected to increase collaboration and better position students for jobs and advanced-degree programs after graduation.

Created by doctoral and medical students in hard sciences, the ScholarBridge resource equips interested students to search and filter through a database of mentors and research opportunities across all disciplines on their campus as well as nationwide. Faculty who post profiles and current research opportunities open for hiring are easily able to manage applicant evaluation and hiring. School administrators can track the interaction easily with the analytics tools.

Dr. Guillermo Rosas, an associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, uses ScholarBridge as a tool for identifying top candidates for research assistant roles.

“Thanks to ScholarBridge, I have been able to attract motivated, hard-working students to work with me,” said Rosas. “These are students with whom I may not have otherwise interacted, since many come from fields other than political science.”

As a result, ScholarBridge serves three rapidly expanding populations, according to Rauch, who is a graduate student at Columbia University: students looking for semester, summer or gap-year research experiences; faculty interested in mentoring the next generation of researchers; and administrators tasked with facilitating these collaborations.

On the market since December 2014, ScholarBridge has participation from individuals at more than 100 institutions, ranging in size and location from its pilot institution Washington University in St. Louis, to the University of Kentucky and High Point University, while also permitting free signup for any interested students or active researchers.

“This platform democratizes the research-assistant process,” explained Amos Jones, an associate professor of law at Campbell University in North Carolina, who individually posted last year for student researchers to join his longitudinal study on the effectiveness of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in combating illegal discrimination.

His work on racial justice calls for quantitative analysis uncommon among law students. “Now, students can engage in an interuniversity collaboration, where the professor bringing independent funding has exhausted the pool of interested students at his own institution,” he said.

In April, Jones hired a political science student who graduated from Washington University in Saint Louis to assist with a 50-state survey on EEOC enforcement.

To date, ScholarBridge has networked thousands of students and professors on projects elsewhere.

CAU, like all of the member institutions, aims to gain ground in the sought-after STEM fields by linking and tracking undergraduate research opportunities especially.

University members, in addition to student and faculty participation, can access ScholarBridge’s analytics hub for tracking and assessing research participation on a campus. This functionality is particularly useful, as administrators are able to track pertinent metrics for understanding the demographics of a research population: gender, first-generation college students, research by discipline, etc. On member campuses, it is clear that, with the implementation of ScholarBridge, greater access to research becomes available to students who may not have previously had the access, skills or preparation to get involved.

As students look more and more for summer and gap-year opportunities in research, there is a growing need to promote cross-institution databasing and connectivity, Rauch said.

“The ScholarBridge search and discover features empower individual students to search for opportunities anywhere and permit faculty to broadcast opportunities and research interests to anyone — and we are planning for rapid growth to include research opportunities beyond the sciences to include humanities, arts and other fields,” Rauch said.

Jones agreed: “This kind of direct access is the wave of the future.”

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.

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