The Undergraduate Research Students' Association will have an open meeting at 5:30 tonight in the UC Shiloh Room.

The group will discuss how to get involved in undergraduate research, a growing factor in admission to graduate degree programs.

"It's almost a requirement to get into grad schools," Melissa Lee, senior in neuroscience, said.

Lee co-founded the organization during her freshman year with Mark Remec, senior in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology. They felt many students failed to see the importance and availability of undergraduate research.

"We knew that most of the people we knew didn't know how to get involved, or even to get involved," Lee said. "It seemed like a general perception that undergraduate research was something that only overachievers did."

Getting into a lab is not the only way to get involved with undergraduate research. Lee and Remec broadly define the group's focus, inviting those working in the arts and humanities to join. For the founders of URSA, the education provided by hands-on experience in the field is the most valuable experience of a college undergraduate.

"We think that undergraduate research is the most important part of our education," Lee said. "We learn more from that than doing anything else. When you're doing research, you're solving real-world problems; it's a real world application that you don't get in the classroom."

She speaks from experience. After two of her high school summers were spent in a neurobiology lab in Nashville, she decided to pursue the subject in college. This year, Lee has continued her work on the brain, researching the expression of certain types of proteins.

"I look at cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is part of the hypothalamus. That's the part of your brain that basically controls your circadian rhythms," Lee said.

The event features two faculty members speaking on the importance and availability of research as an undergraduate. Nichole Fazio-Veigel, the new full-time Assistant Director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, will discuss the development of undergraduate research advisors at the library.

Dr. Lee Riedinger, the interim Vice Chancellor for Research, plans to explain the relationship between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT, opening up pathways for more undergraduate students to work at their labs.

Students will also present opportunities for their classmates to get involved. Sarah Russell, senior in history and editor-in-chief of Pursuit, plans to encourage students to pursue publishing.

"I'm going to be talking primarily about Pursuit, the Journal of Undergraduate Research. I hope to use that time with undergraduates interested in research to let them know about the opportunity to publish their work as undergraduates," Russell said. "Pursuit is an excellent way to go through the process of submission and publication as an undergraduate. I am continually impressed every year by the quality and diversity of undergraduate research at UT."

Julia Ross, junior in biology, will also speak, discussing the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, an organization she is bringing to Knoxville. The program offers students a chance to engage in progressive activism and promote their own ideas for change.

The URSA, though relatively new to campus, has big plans for the future. Lee explained a developing plan for a research series with the library. Professors would present their own research and lecture on research ethics, poster-making workshops and more. They also hope to expand the honors symposium this year, transforming it to a general undergraduate research conference. The conference would last more than one day and outside universities would be invited to attend, Lee said.