Professor Judy Wu sees undergraduate research as an important opportunity for students to work to create knowledge instead of merely receiving it. She conducted her first extensive research project as an undergraduate and considers it an important privilege to be able to pass on the benefits of her experience to the students she mentors. Professor Wu also greatly appreciates the many opportunities she has to learn from her students as well, and considers her interactions with her students to be a highlight of her role as a teacher. UROP is pleased to recognize Professor Wu for passionate mentoring of undergraduate researchers at UC Irvine.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

I remember undertaking my first extensive research project as a rising senior in a program similar to UROP. I loved the process of conducting interviews with San Francisco Chinatown community activists from the 1960s and 1970s and researching movement newspapers of that era. Writing, however, was another thing. It was so challenging to figure out the focus of the topic, my argument, how to select and interpret the evidence, and articulate the significance of my project. These challenges still persist for me today, but I have many more years of experience to help me, and I try to share these insights with my undergraduate and graduate students. Since research is so individualized, at least in the Humanities and some Social Science fields, it is important to offer personalized feedback and guidance to help us grow as thinkers, writers, and cultural creators. I include myself in this statement, because I benefit enormously from participating in writing groups.

As I work with students, I learn that they have different passions, strengths, as well as areas that they need to develop. One of my mentees, for example, is incredibly creative. He is an artist, poet, and spoken word artist. However, writing a traditional research paper is not necessarily his strong suit. So, we eventually figured out that he would create a series of tarot cards, inspired by a similar set of cards that focused on Asian American mental health. His cards featured his art work, poems, and interviews with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are undocumented. So, every time I work with students, I both learn from them and learn how to better mentor student research.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

I donít think Iíve turned away anyone at UCI who wants to work with me. If students have the drive and interest to contact me, I try to respond in kind. I do try to set expectations and timelines to help motivate students. I understand when they need to take a break or require more time to develop their work. However, I try as much as possible to help them move that process along. Iíve also brought individual students together in group settings, so that they can support one another, offer feedback, and help keep each other accountable.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

I try to provide extensive feedback, either by discussing ideas or preferably by responding to their writing. The steps from research to thinking to writing are big ones. So, I try to get students into that third stage as soon as it is feasible. When one writes, the gaps in research and thinking become more apparent. Writing is not the final stage of research, but part of the process of figuring out what additional research and analysis needs to be conducted. Presenting research also helps illuminate the argument, significance, and substance of a project.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

I describe research to students as a completely different type of learning. They are no longer receptors of knowledge but creators of knowledge. This binary is not entirely satisfactory, because even when one listens to a lecture or reads scholarship, the listener/reader is hopefully also actively analyzing what is being conveyed and developing her/his interpretation of the information that is being conveyed. However, it is a big step to being the recipient of knowledge to creating scholarship or works of art that evoke others to think and react. I believe students discover their voice and identity by becoming knowledge and cultural creators.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

So, so much! Thatís why I really enjoy being a professor. I am as proud of my studentsí achievements and sympathize as much with their struggles as if they were my own.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

I hope students pursue their intellectual and creative passions through research. It takes time and discipline, but the experience can be an incredibly rewarding process of discovery and achievement.

Research Interests: Asian American History; Comparative Racialization and Immigration; Empire and Decolonization; Gender and Sexuality

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '18 Judy Tzu-Chun Wu
Nov. '18 Justyna M. Sosna
Oct. '18 Chen Li
Sep. '18 Shahrdad Lotfipour
Aug. '18 Zoe Klemfuss
Jul. '18 Patrick Rafter
Jun. '18 Kelli Sharp
May. '18 Gilverto Q. Conchas
Apr. '18 Ozdal Boyraz
Mar. '18 Amal Alachkar
Feb. '18 Andrea Nicholas
Jan. '18 Wenqi Wang