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Every undergraduate student. Every major. Discovering, designing, doing.
All WPI undergraduate students do significant research in pursuit of their degrees. It is in our DNA.
Performing meaningful, purpose-driven research with faculty early in a college career helps students gain a greater understanding of their discipline, see the implications of their work in the world, and develop a better focus on the career they want. Undergraduate research at WPI runs the gamut from basic to applied to fundamental. Research problems come from within academia or from our business, industry, or government partners.
WPI’s motto, Lehr und Kunst, extols the importance of theory and practice. One without the other has less impact, so no matter what their career plans are, all students at WPI engage in research which, as part of the WPI Plan, includes the following:
Major Qualifying Project
The Major Qualifying Project (MQP) is a senior-year capstone research or design project completed by all students within their major field of study. Students bring to bear all the theory that they have learned in their disciplines to solve open-ended problems and to effectively communicate their results.
Interactive Qualifying Project
All undergraduate students do an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) in the junior year. They tackle issues at the intersection of science, technology, and society, and in their work they learn how technology affects societal values and structures.
Great Problems Seminar
WPI undergraduate students have the opportunity to engage in significant inquiry as soon as they step on campus. The Great Problems Seminar (GPS) is a two-term, project-based course that introduces first-year students to university-level research focusing on themes of global importance.
Beyond these opportunities, students may work with faculty and graduate students on research during the summer or academic year.
Learning how to ask and solve open-ended questions leads to advances in the field. Research takes undergraduate students past that important initial step of asking a question, leading them through the complexities of finding good solutions to original scientific, technical, and societal problems.
Why is undergraduate research valuable?
- Builds close relationships and promotes collaboration with faculty members
- Increases graduate school preparation and admission
- Improves communication skills
- Prepares students for the workforce
- Builds universal skills, including teamwork and project management
- Fosters innovation and entrepreneurship
- Discoveries can lead to patents and copyrights
- Develops expertise in the field
- Engages corporate partners who offer real-world problems to solve, resources to help, and additional opportunities for students
- Aids in successful fellowships and grants applications
- Offers experiences unlike anything found in a classroom
Contributing in the Field
Undergraduate students have worked closely on Marja Bakermans' research in studying migratory songbirds. They accompany her on field studies across Massachusetts to learn about the whip-poor-will and how to help rebuild its breeding populations.
Collaborating with Industry
Companies and organizations fund various WPI projects and give students real-world work experiences while solving an authentic industry problem. Undergraduate students often work on an MQP that is done in collaboration with industry partners. The following list is a sample of some companies that have sponsored WPI research projects.