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NMSU center fosters research, creative opportunities for undergraduate students

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A center for undergraduate students at New Mexico State University has been a well-kept secret since its creation in 2021.

But the center’s director, Tracey Miller-Tomlinson, Ph.D., and the students who have benefitted from what the center has to offer them, don’t want that to be the case.

The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity at NMSU espouses two of the main objectives in Goal 2 of NMSU’s LEADS 2025 strategic plan. However, the main goal behind the center is to encourage students to delve deeper into their interests while earning valuable experience through research and mentorship opportunities.

“NMSU has a long tradition of faculty working with undergraduates in their labs, studios and collections, or on independent projects,” Miller-Tomlinson said. “The center was founded in August 2021 to support these efforts by serving as a resource for NMSU undergraduate scholars and their faculty mentors.”

Miller-Tomlinson said the center is also designed to introduce research and creative opportunities early in students’ academic careers; support both externally and internally funded research programs and other curricular and institutional structures that sustain undergraduate inquiry; and foster a sense of community for undergraduate researchers and creative artists.

Fateh Aswad, a microbiology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, learned about the center after emailing the Office of the Vice President for Research, Creativity and Strategic Initiatives regarding research opportunities. They referred him to Miller-Tomlinson, who helped Aswad look for opportunities in microbiology and introduced him to Professor Mary Alice Scott, a REACH Core Leader at the Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research Program and a medical anthropologist. Scott in turn introduced Aswad to Assistant Professor Teri Orr in the biology department, and Aswad is now a volunteer undergraduate research assistant in Orr’s lab.

“In the end, I was finally able to become a vital part of the effort to expand the knowledge of society and begin my research career,” Aswad said. “To my peers, I would like to emphasize the importance of research when it comes to any discipline. The work done by professors and scientists all over the world is the framework that constitutes the development of society as a whole.”

Miller-Tomlinson hosts drop-in office hours at the center, located inside the William Conroy Honors College building on the NMSU Las Cruces campus, to brainstorm with students about how they may find a path into research and creative scholarship. She also sends out biweekly CrimsonOpps Alert emails to students, as well as posts opportunities on the center’s website.

“Depending on their field, there may be opportunities built into their major, such as project-based courses, independent studies, exhibits or capstones. There may even be research programs that support undergraduate scholars with stipends and professional development, and help place them in internships and labs. All students, whatever their field, can take part in research and creative activities with the guidance of a faculty mentor,” Miller-Tomlinson said. “For example, as a faculty member in English I have supervised Honors capstone theses on topics from Shakespeare to diversity in the publishing industry. Mentoring undergraduates expands our own contribution to scholarship in the field and helps to shape its future.”

The center also hosts annual events designed to increase access to opportunities by sharing information about campus labs, projects and programs, Miller-Tomlinson said.

This spring, the center will launch an interdisciplinary undergraduate journal of research and creativity, The Agora, with a student editorial team led by Devynne Hadley, an English major at NMSU. Also this spring, the Honors Art Collective will transform the Honors College building into an art gallery curated by art student Natalia Martinez. The semester will culminate in a showcase of undergraduate scholarship university-wide at the 28th annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium, taking place April 14 in the Corbett Center Student Union. The symposium is free and open to the public.

The center is located in room 204 of the Honors College. For more information, visit or call 575-646-2005.