What if research led to solutions while providing formative experiences for future innovators?  

That question is at the core of Mentoring Undergraduates in Interdisciplinary Research (MUIR), a unique program that drives ongoing interdisciplinary environmental research by Stanford faculty though summer stipends for undergraduate student researchers funded by Stanford’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) and the Stanford Woods Institute, and organized by Woods. 

MUIR fellows spend a summer immersed in an intensive, high-quality research setting under the mentorship of faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. This way, the fellows acquire hands-on research skills and methodologies that will benefit them now and may inspire them to pursue a graduate level course of study in the future. 

“Faculty members gain talented students to work on critical environmental questions, while undergraduates gain exposure to the cutting edge of environmental issues, learn research skills on the job, and receive mentoring from highly accomplished Stanford faculty,” said Woods program manager Brian Sharbono.

Summer is when faculty are most singularly focused on research programs. That makes it an ideal time for undergraduates – busy with full course loads during the rest of the year – to be involved in research labs, and to receive dedicated mentoring.

“Through the MUIR program, I was able to tackle a familiar problem – climate change – from a social sciences and policy perspective, and therefore add variety and depth to the repertoire of analytical skills I’ve already developed in my core classes,” said Mark Carrington, a 2014 MUIR fellow.

 “The MUIR fellows meaningfully contributed to the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center’s (PEEC) energy reduction motivation research project, and advanced our timeline for bringing the project to fruition,” said James Sweeney, PEEC director and professor of management science and engineering.

To prepare for the summer, MUIR students take an interdisciplinary research skills course. Following their summer work, students must present their research at a VPUE symposium.

Past MUIR projects have addressed issues such as improving economic outcomes for cacao farmers in Central America, ocean acidification in coral reefs and the role of climate change and influenza emergence in migratory birds.

This year’s MUIR fellows will work on projects ranging from an exploration of media impact on perceptions of climate change to an analysis of sustainability’s role in business school educations.

Projects funded for 2015 (see Funded Projects for more information): 

Public Opinion on Climate Change

Predation Analysis of Checkerspot Butterfly Euphydryas gillettii Population at Gothic Colorado

Business Leadership & Environmental Sustainability

Research in Environmental Learning:  Assessing the Stanford Environmental Leadership and Language Program in Osa, Costa Rica

Simulating Seasonal Cycles of the Colorado River Basin: Nitrogen Cycling Insights and Implications for U(IV) Release

Evaluation of Disseminating an Energy and Environment Intervention For Girl Scouts

Assessing the Socio-Economic Impact of Schistosomiasis in Sub-Saharan Africa

Uala Growth over a Climate Gradient: a Tool for Understanding Traditional Rainfed Agriculture in Hawaii