Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

Let students have their Eureka moment

Natan Murillo

Obtaining a research opportunity at UT is a gamble. Students often cold-email dozens of professors, but many are not currently accepting new researchers or simply don’t respond. Because of this, undergraduates push aside their research aspirations, choosing instead to participate in any available lab since unaligned research involvement is better than nothing.

UT’s Office of Undergraduate Research developed Eureka to solve this very issue. Eureka is a platform where professors can post research opportunities for passionate undergraduate students. In concept, Eureka is a fantastic way to minimize the desperate search many prospective researchers face. However, with many projects labeled as closed and some not updated for months or years, Eureka needs to be updated.  

To improve undergraduates’ research capabilities, the Office of Undergraduate Research should modernize Eureka and add features that benefit exploration instead of causing frustration. By taking down closed experiences and renovating the way students reach out to professors, the Office of Undergraduate Research can enhance undergraduate researchers’ professional journey. 

Biology sophomore Ethan Liu started searching for opportunities on Eureka during his freshman year. But when he began looking for listings, he didn’t like the outcome.

“I sent out emails (using Eureka), but I don’t remember getting any responses,” Liu said. “So I switched to cold emailing professors, and I found professors to be a lot more responsive that way. I’m not sure how effective (Eureka) is. It may have ended up working for other students, but it just didn’t for me.”

Currently, the chances of acquiring a research opportunity by cold-emailing or using Eureka are essentially the same, reducing the website’s inherent value. To address this situation, Robert Reichle, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, is attempting to increase the website’s accessibility and ensure that it follows its intended purpose. 

“Previously, (Eureka) had a completely different underlying structure, and we contracted with the (Information Technology Services) team at UT to essentially rewrite the site from scratch,” Reichle said. “Since then, we’ve had a few rounds of making additional improvements and additions to the site. … The most recent rounds of updates have been to do things like adding the fact that students, by logging in, have profiles that can retain information about what you’re seeking to find.”

Although these features increase the website’s usability, issues still persist. Currently, closed research opportunities are left on the website to encourage students to follow up with the professor. However, this approach forces students to make a fervent plea rather than securing them an assured avenue. 

Plan II and biochemistry junior Sanjana Kumar believes that Eureka’s strategy is misleading. 

“(Leaving closed openings up) can give people false impressions about an opportunity,” Kumar said. “Like you see this opportunity and you think it might be open but then you realize it’s actually not. I think it just clutters up the interface, and it just makes it harder to find opportunities that you can actually act upon.”

In addition to removing unavailable positions, the Office of Undergraduate Research should add specific due dates to applications, remove opportunities after deadlines and update openings more frequently. 

Research is a vital element of undergraduate students’ careers. Although the Office of Undergraduate Research presents Eureka as a way to reach professors, a lack of accessibility forces many to resort to cold emailing. To enhance students’ undergraduate experiences, the Office of Undergraduate Research should renovate Eureka, ensuring the website’s mission is upheld. 

Anwar is a neuroscience freshman from Plano, TX.

More to Discover