Why you should attend the Beginning a Research Program Institute

In this post, CUR Chem travel awardee and BRP graduate Dr. Michael Wentzel describes his experience at the Beginning a Research Program Institute last fall. Don’t miss your chance to apply for this year! The application deadline is just over a month away!


I was extremely fortunate last year to attend the CUR Institute “Beginning a Research curlogoProgram in the Natural Sciences at a Predominately Undergraduate Institution.” I had been only slightly familiar with CUR as a few colleagues and staff had recently attended a CUR Proposal Writing Institute. I also had recently discovered that there was even a dedicated division to chemistry, being the oldest even! I started reading the CUR chemistry blog and following CUR Chemistry on Twitter (I think I was one of the first followers!).

wentzelI feel constantly pulled in multiple directions as most professors do, and I have the habit of never turning down requests as someone who is pre-tenured often does. I have wonderful colleagues and mentors here at Augsburg, but I thought outside guidance would also be beneficial, especially on how to conduct meaningful and fundable undergraduate research from those who have done it.

I thought outside guidance would…be beneficial, especially on how to conduct meaningful and fundable undergraduate research from those who have done it.

I applied for a travel award in earnest, knowing that even if awarded I might not be able to attend the institute due to a modest academic travel stipend. However, I was fortunate that I got the travel award and was given support by my Provost to cover the additional costs. The support from my Provost was given because I simply asked. This was the first lesson I gained from the institute before I even got there – ask for help!

What I learnedhelp

  • If having a research program is important to you then designate time for it every week. It needs to be scheduled without exception. The word “No” can be a complete sentence, because you have to protect your time. There will never be a perfect time to write grants or papers, but by setting a schedule and maintaining it, at least incremental progress will be made.

If having a research program is important to you then designate time for it every week.

  • help_button_he0rapIf my first lesson was to learn to ask for help, it certainly wasn’t my last!  I have asked colleagues for their successful grant proposals to assist in my own writing. I have been working with our director of sponsored programs on writing two grants this past year and plan to continue writing grants (despite 2 rejections). The BRP facilitators covered  topics such as granting agencies, integrating research into the curriculum, selecting and mentoring research students, setting up a lab, and interacting with administrators to enhance faculty scholarship. Their willingness to be resources and to assist us in getting started with research was extremely encouraging.

The BRP facilitators covered  topics such as granting agencies, integrating research into the curriculum, selecting and mentoring research students…their willingness to be resources…was extremely encouraging.

  • checklist-cartoonThe most important outcome for me was an actionable agenda for the next year that I created with my facilitator. My facilitator has held me accountable, and is the support I often need once the reality of the school year begins. I am happy to report I have done a decent job of keeping my schedule.

The most important outcome for me was an actionable agenda for the next year that I created with my facilitator

Finally, I am very grateful for the continued support from Keri Colabroy (my facilitator) and all of my friends and chemistry colleagues.

To apply to the BRP in the Natural Sciences Institute – go here. For a CUR Chem Travel Award – apply here


michaelwentzel~ Dr. Michael Wentzel is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. His research interests include developing new synthetic methods and reagents, particularly with transition metals, and the synthesis of biologically active natural products with applications at the interface of chemistry and biology.

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