Student entrepeneurs try to connect undergrads with researchers using new involvement website
As second semester approaches and students consider additional outlets for academic engagement, several Washington University students and alumni hope to make the process of finding a research opportunity easier for undergraduates.
Launched in May, ScholarBridge is a website that allows both students and professors to create profiles that provide information regarding their research interests, past experiences and current involvement.
Once enrolled in the free program, students are able to browse through professors’ pages for available research positions as well as further insight into each professor’s work.
ScholarBridge was founded by 2013 University graduate Michael Rauch, senior Jake Gordon and Andrew Adelsheimer, a 2013 graduate of Dartmouth College. Having had firsthand experience with the difficulties of securing research positions, the three decided to establish ScholarBridge in order to address the needs of the undergraduate community.
Senior William Stein, the site’s director of sales and marketing, explained that since the business’s inception, ScholarBridge has been completely self-funding and has yet to open to outside investments.
“We don’t have any money from the school so [ScholarBridge is] completely a project of the three founders and myself,” Stein said. “[We] built it all the way from the ground up to what you see online today.”
Stein said that ScholarBridge’s draw lay in its comprehensive list of research opportunities that students could apply for through the site.
“The real value is that [research] openings are posted and [the database] has the most up-to-date information,” Stein said.
The establishment of ScholarBridge marks the first successful attempt to compile a significant portion of the University’s undergraduate research information into a single online location.
Joy Kiefer, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, emphasized the significant role that ScholarBridge has played in reforming campus opportunities for academic involvement.
“It supplements a lot of resources that we often hear students say are kind of disjointed…so I think that has really helped us,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer also noted the convenience that the system provides for professors seeking research assistance, stating that the greater the ease of involvement, the more likely professors will be to enroll.
Outside of the Washington University community, ScholarBridge has expanded to Georgetown University, the University of Kentucky and Montana State University, and the program is currently involved in partnership talks with more than 30 additional schools, according to Stein.
“We want to get to as many campuses as possible,” Stein explained, “We really do feel like we’re doing a service to the educational community and that there is a need for this resource.”
As more schools are added, the founders hope that ScholarBridge will encourage students to take advantage of research opportunities at their own universities as well as at other enrolled schools.
“If you were a student at school in St. Louis,” Stein said, “but went home for the summer to New York and wanted to browse for positions [there], theoretically you could do that if there were positions posted relevant to your interests.”
Kiefer also said she thought the site’s success hinged on student and faculty participation.
“We need people to participate for it to be a robust place. We need student participation. We need faculty participation so that they can get the information they need, and I think so far we’ve had great participation on both fronts,” Kiefer said.
“[ScholarBridge’s] success hinges on participation,” she added.
Stein said that should staff and student registration continue to increase, “you will see a lot more student involvement in research during their undergraduate period, and that’s what we’re hoping to see.”