OURS Student Ambassadors

Launched in the fall semester of 2014, the OURS Student Ambassador program allows former student scholars to continue their work with the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS). OURS Student Ambassadors represent the office by providing outreach and guidance to GVSU undergraduate students interested in getting involved in research opportunities. OURS Student Ambassadors have had a positive undergraduate research experience to share with others, and are dedicated to spreading the word about Undergraduate Research at Grand Valley State University. They also work with the OURS staff on improving outreach efforts and programming.

How Ambassadors Can Help You


  • Answer questions that you may have about the process of research, ranging from how to ask a research question to how to disseminate your research
  • Mentor you through the Student Summer Scholars program application and research process


  • Give a short presentation to your class or department about their experiences in research and the support that OURS can provide to GVSU students
  • Share their personal experiences and opinions on best practices regarding their direct collaboration with a faculty mentor


Request an Ambassador

To request an OURS Student Ambassador for a presentation, please fill out our online request form. If you have any questions, please email the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at [email protected] or give us a call at (616) 331-8100.

Submit Request

Meet the 2022-2023 OURS Student Ambassadors

Ian Curtis

Contact: [email protected]
Majors: French & Statistics

Ian Curtis

I am currently a senior majoring in Statistics and French and have minors in Mathematics and Psychology.  After graduating, I will seek a Master’s degree in Data Science and might go on to obtain a Ph.D. in Computer Science with the ultimate goal of becoming a Data Scientist. I am the President of the French Club. Outside of school I enjoy writing, listening to, and recording music; walking my dog; reading; and collecting fun-printed socks.

Before entering college, research always seemed so distant. “Research” to me was scientists in a laboratory mixing chemicals together. While that is certainly research, it can be so much more than a lab and is also accessible to students. I began my research journey through the French program after seeking out Dr. David Eick, whose research, the French Encyclopédie (1751-1772), interested me. In Summer 2020, I participated in the Library Summer Scholars program (with Amber Dierking), learning about the many services libraries offer while also creating my own research product: a website holding information on various scholary sources about the Encyclopédie. That same summer I worked as a Research Assistant to Dr. Eick helping him edit and polish his Reacting to the Past game centered on the Encyclopédie controversy. This game is currently under review and is being play-tested in the U.S. and Canada. In Summer 2021, I participated in the Student Summer Scholars program, this time conducting my own original research on the Encyclopédie, focusing on the alleged plagiarism of the supplemental images to the Encyclopédie. I also have experience in computer science research: for my Honors Senior Project in Winter 2022, under Dr. Erin Carrier, I coded my own Spotify recommendation algorithm as a resource for other researchers to use when conducting studies on recommendation effectiveness.

The biggest takeaway I have from my experience is that participating in research does not limit you to the job title of “Researcher”. In fact many positions rely on some form of research or at the very least require various skills gained from research such as professional communication and working through setbacks (I’ve had my fair share of hurdles!). Moreover, research is a great way to gain experience in your field and opens the door to other opportunities such as new research projects, conferences, publication, and more. Whether you’re in the middle of a project, a prospective researcher, or someone who had completed a project, I’d love to talk with you about opportunities for students at GVSU or about my experience, both the final results and the process to get there.

Mary Fergus

Contact: [email protected]
Major: Biochemistry

Mary Fergus

I am a senior at GVSU majoring in biochemistry with the goal to earn my PhD in biochemistry. I am also a chemistry tutor at the GVSU Chemistry Success Center and am the president of GVSU Euchre Club. In my spare time, I enjoy swimming, hiking, playing cards, and relaxing on a boat.

I was first introduced to research during my freshman year at GVSU through a class called Introduction to Science Research. This class focused on how to read and analyze research articles along with exposing us to current research projects happening at Grand Valley. Our final was creating a poster to present a research paper of interest. During this class, we attended the GVSU Undergraduate Research Fair which talked about the opportunities to become involved in undergraduate research.

Research had always piqued my interest and I pursued it my junior year at Grand Valley. I was a recipient of the Student Summer Scholars Program and recognized as an Ott-Stiner Scholar. During the 2022 summer, I was immersed in a research project investigating novel boronic acids as cross-class inhibitors for β-lactamases to overcome antibiotic resistance. With this opportunity, I gained valuable laboratory skills and improved my communication and problem solving techniques.

One of the important lessons that was consistently present throughout my experience in research is that setbacks/challenges are common and at times celebrated. Those obstacles serve as a learning platform for success. I have learned far more from my setbacks than I have from my successes. Failure challenges you to think with a different perspective and to explore out-of-the-box ideas. I was afraid to fail during research, but failed experiments make success more rewarding. There is a reason that it is called research instead of search.

Research has inspired me to pursue my PhD in biochemistry. My only wish is that I began research earlier! If you have any questions about research opportunities at GVSU, please feel free to reach out.

Owen Laverty

Contact: [email protected]
Major: Finance

Owen Laverty

I am currently a junior at GVSU studying Finance and Economics with a certificate in Applied Data Analytics. After graduating in December 2023, I plan on working in real estate or corporate finance for a few years before returning to school to receive a Master's degree (either an MBA or MS in Economics). If I choose to receive an MS in Economics, it is possible that I will continue on for a Ph.D. in Economics as well. I am involved in the Frederik Meijer Honors College and the Seidman Investment Portfolio Organization. Outside of school I love to read, watch sports, and play Spikeball.

I have to thank my mentor, Dr. Vijay Gondhalekar, for getting me involved with research because he mentioned the Student Summer Scholars program to our FIN 320 class, and later agreed to be my mentor. I was lucky to receive the S3 award during the summer of 2022, and we looked into the effects that Right-to-Work laws have on creativity. I also worked as a Research Assistant with my other mentor, Dr. Chandresh Baid, on another research project he is working on this summer.

The biggest takeaway I had from my involvement with the S3 program was that research is unpredictable. My mentors and I had a pretty good idea of what we thought our results would be based on existing studies and knowledge on our subject. We were completely wrong. Despite seeming like a failure, it actually was extremely exciting as we then got to figure out why we were so wrong. That to me is the great thing about research, finding the why behind things that interest you.

To be honest, research was not on my radar coming into college and even after my freshman year. After getting a taste of it this summer, I truly believe that it enhances a college education and should be sought out by every student. My research experience has inspired me to pursue further education and research in economics, and potentially become a professor myself. Feel free to reach out at any time with questions about research opportunities for students at GVSU.

Seth Ockerman

Contact: [email protected]
Major: Computer Science

Seth Ockerman

I am a senior majoring in Computer Science with minors in Writing, Cybersecurity, and Math. I am hoping to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in computer systems and machine learning. My hobbies include running, crossfit, reading, ministry, and longboarding.

My involvement in research came about as a bit of an accident. In one of my introductory courses, I gained a reputation as the class question asker. My curiosity turned me into a regular office hours attendee (great thing- would highly recommend). As I built a relationship with that professor, he eventually explained that “question asking” is more formally called research. Before I knew it, I was his research assistant, and after a summer working under him, I realized I wanted research to be my full time job. Under a different professor, I came up with an independent research project and eventually applied for the 2020 Summer Scholars Grant. I was lucky enough to receive the S^3 grant, and Professor Carrier and I partnered on a project analyzing mask usage trends on social media using machine learning. I continued this research in summer of 2022 through the MI STEM Forward grant, and I also worked as a SROP Research intern at The Ohio State's ICICLE Lab.

Over the last 3 years, I discovered that curiosity, determination and patience are often more important to successful research than innate ability. When I first got involved, I often felt like an imposter surrounded by geniuses who were impressive beyond belief. I have learned that research isn’t just about smarts -- it is about wanting to learn and find answers to questions that interest you, and ironically, often as a result you find yourself excelling. I hope to share my research experience with students to encourage them to get involved and find out if research is a path for them. It changed my perspective on education and what a career can be. Please reach out if you have any questions about what it is like to research at Grand Valley.

What Does an Ambassador Do?

An OURS Student Ambassador is responsible for the promotion of undergraduate research throughout GVSU and the larger West Michigan community (high schools, middle schools, prospective GVSU students). Ambassadors are tasked with increasing awareness of undergraduate opportunities at GVSU among their peers by presenting to groups of students, offering seminars and workshops, and being available to mentor students during the process of research. In doing so, Ambassadors will help interested students develop the skills needed to embark on undergraduate research, increase number of GVSU students that begin undergraduate research prior to their junior year, and increase attendance at the Undergraduate Research Fair, Student Scholars Day, and other events or programs coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. More information can be found in the job description.

To be considered for an Undergraduate Research Ambassador position, a student must have been a recipient of a GVSU funded research award or program, including (but not limited to):

Being an Undergraduate Research Ambassador comes with a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Tuition grant of $500 per semester
  • Development of public speaking, communication, and marketing skills
  • Working with administrative staff, GVSU faculty, and students of all ages


Page last modified July 27, 2022