The Undergraduate Research Committee
Striving for a research oriented student atmosphere can be hard in the absence of an official governing body; the pre-requisite for a successful program requires information and decisions going through the proper channel. Therefore, considering these needs the founding senior medical students established the undergraduate research committee (URC) at Alfaisal College of medicine.
The committee was developed and established largely due to the increasingly evolving students’ interest in research. However, the URC is not only targeted toward the undergraduate students; it aspires to a larger role to address the need of higher education institutes to initiate, promote and sustain such endeavour in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Programs Offered By the Undergraduate Research Committee
1. Summer Program for International Research internship and Training (SPIRIT)
SPIRIT was established in 2010, and ever since it has continued to evolve. The program allows the students to develop research expertise by joining well-known researchers worldwide, participating in international research intensive-institutes, and doing research in an area of health interest to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The students join either designed basic and clinical research programs, or exclusively mentored-research positions in USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Scotland and England. Each student is evaluated based on specific set of criteria and recommendation letters from research scholars. Yearly opportunities are announced by early February and decision of acceptance are made by late February; giving the students the chance to make the necessary arrangements for their travel.
2. Local Research Program
Building upon the success of the Summer Program for International Research Internship and Training (SPIRIT), a new program to organize, facilitate and oversee local research endeavours as well as to increase the pool of undergraduate research opportunities, was founded in April 2012 under the lead of the undergraduate research committee. Among the most significant reasons which delayed the birth of this committee was the regional community perception towards students’ contribution in research; as this territory was, and to an extent remains, largely less explored, it was difficult to foresee how student presence in research could become a feasible reality. However, through careful planning and dedicated efforts, the concept of a student committee geared towards the promotion and actualization of such student-based endeavours took shape. This program is in collaboration with King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre (KFSH&RC). Undergraduate medical students have the chance to practice and conduct basic biomedical and clinical research across the varying departments within KFSH.
3. Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium
The annually organized Symposium is a platform for undergraduate students to showcase what they have learned through their research experiences to a larger audience. The Symposium also provides a forum for faculty, students, and the public to discuss cutting-edge research topics and to examine the correlation between education and research. In addition to its unique role in providing a forum for exchange of ideas, the symposium has a unique publicity value. Not only does it motivate more students to get involved in research but it also provides leading researchers and scientists a chance to witness what the students have accomplished, thereby helping to secure additional research opportunities for the future.
4.Students Travel Awards
The COM at Alfaisal University encourages the students to spread the knowledge they have generated during their work to local & international platforms. The administration has dedicated a specific amount of budget annually for this purpose. Virtually all applicants every year are awarded an educational opportunity to present internationally. However, the students are advised to only present once per semester to maintain the balance between the academic commitment and research involvement. This has motivated the administration to secure more funds for expected future requests by students as the student body in increasing in size.
5. Research Oriented Series
Broadening students’ contribution in research-based activities is a key element in any research-based institute. The increasing desire of students to participate in research activities mandate URC to expand its programs and provide an ongoing advancement of research experience for undergraduate medical students. Constructing a strong base of research for junior medical students is of great essence as it will promote their research experience and gained skills. It utilizes a unique approach that aims to motivate students through sessions conducted by research experienced senior medical students, and providing a mixture of theoretical and practical concepts of research. This series might be further considered as a mean of facilitating students’ research experience nationally and internationally.
6. Community-Based Research Grant Support for Undergraduate Researchers
The Community-Based Research Grant Support for Undergraduate Researchers, sponsored by Prince Fahad bin Khalid’s Undergraduate Medical Research Program; will support areas of Community-Based Research for team of investigators. The main objective is to encourage undergraduate medical students to initiate collaborative, reciprocally beneficial research between the College of Medicine and local community. One annual grant will be offered up to 10,000 Saudi Riyals, for competition among teams of undergraduate researchers. Applications will be reviewed by the Faculty Advisory Board of the Undergraduate Research Committee.
7. Awards for Distinguished Faculty and Medical students
The Undergraduate Research Committee has allocated a number of awards for distinguished performance by either students or faculty mentoring medical students’ research projects. This rewarding system is expected to increase and promote students retention and contribution in research-based activities. Students and faculty receive their award through an organized recognition ceremony by the (URC).
- Prince Fahad bin Khalid’s Undergraduate medical Research Program
This program is the first of its kind in the kingdom to support undergraduate research. It was launched in 2010-2011 aiming to provide and support undergraduate researchers with scholarships and grants to carry out the various research activities implemented by the undergraduate research committee. Over the past two years, the program in collaboration with Alfaisal University has funded approximately 90 undergraduate students to carry out research projects. His highness Prince Khalid bin Fahad AL Saud, member of the board of trustees at Alfaisal University, constantly looks to promote the undergraduate research concept entirely in the kingdom by providing unlimited consultative and financial support.
8. Core Values and Outcomes
- URC is a student-Centered, Faculty supervised committee.
- It is based on the ideology of Seniors Promote juniors to take roles in the URC committee.
- While it is serving a research purpose, it is based on research and assessment
- It supports Community – Based Contribution.
- It encourages Participation in a research project original to the discipline and leads knowledge dissemination in scholarly journals.
- It promotes Female Students’ contribution in research nationally and internationally (in 2013, Females contribution in SPIRIT increased 4 times).
- It has varying range of research programs that increase students’ accessibility to opportunities nationally and internationally.
- Over the past 4 years, over 170 students were able to participate in research-based activities during summer time and academic year.
- Over 90% of 2013 were able to conducted research projects for over period of 7 – 8 weeks.
- In 2013, medical students were able to achieve 7 prestigious awards on local, Gulf region and international levels.
- URC in collaboration with Alfaisal University was able to secure over 900,000 Saudi Riyals to fund students’ research projects in the past three years.