Mora seeks to expand undergraduate research, scholarship

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Dr. Cordula Mora brings a wealth of experience to her role as director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS), along with an infectious natural enthusiasm and determination.

Her aim is to make the center a robust resource for students to find a mentor and for faculty to identify student mentees with ability and the desire to learn. The center will also be the resource for connecting with support sources such as grants and scholarships, including funds for travel to conferences.

Formerly a research assistant professor in the psychology department’s Center for Neuroscience, Mind and Behavior, Mora has made a point of mentoring students since joining BGSU in 2009.

“Early research experience is so important,” she said. “Even if you don’t know what you want to do, it can help you find direction.”

Mora believes strongly in the importance of undergraduate research in all disciplines, as well as in study abroad as a fruitful avenue for learning — something she experienced, coming from Germany first to New Zealand then the United States.

In conjunction with the Study Abroad Fair on Wednesday (Sept. 17), CURS will sponsor the University’s first undergraduate research conference on internships, service-learning and experiential learning in study-abroad programs. Students who have participated in study abroad during 2013-14 will give presentations, with awards for the top presenters.

In her first four years at BGSU, Mora worked with more than 20 undergraduates in the CURS and former SETGO programs, and two graduate students in the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program.

Her dedication to fostering student research earned her the 2012 Elliot L. Blinn Award for Faculty-Undergraduate Student Basic Research/Creative Work, specifically for her mentoring of Merissa Acerbi, who participated in Mora’s National Science Foundation-funded research into the brain base of avian navigational ability. Among her many accomplishments, Acerbi presented her work at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience conference, held in New Orleans, the biggest annual conference in her field, as well as the Royal Institute of Navigation conference in Great Britain the same year.

“I could not have accomplished the work I presented there without the guidance of my mentor and continual feedback that she gives me each and every day,” Acerbi said.

In addition to championing the benefits of active learning, Mora is a firm believer in building a strong foundation with those students she mentors. She encourages her students to attend regional, national and even international conferences and to work with them on the publication of their research results.

“I believe that having undergraduate students participate in research is crucially important for their career development,” Mora said. “Having a resume that shows active involvement in research as an undergraduate gives the student a competitive advantage for their careers irrespective of whether they apply to graduate school or plan to work outside academia. Many recent studies have shown that involvement with research or other scholarly activities during the undergraduate years is something that employers look for when hiring recent graduates. Such experience ranked even higher than the student’s GPA in terms of importance to the employer.”

Her mission for CURS is to help extend those possibilities to all undergraduates and to support faculty who share that conviction.

For more information, visit the CURS site or email Mora at cmora@bgsu.edu.