In a converted office with chalkboard walls in Old Rafuse sits a group of coders, developers and interns. They are the team behind Research Connection, a free online search engine for research opportunities.
Research Connection is the brainchild of Ariel Katz, a senior majoring in psychology. According to Katz, he knew there had to be a more efficient way for students to get involved in research, and this past summer, he enlisted the help of his childhood friend, Columbia University student Kal Victor, to find a solution.
“I wanted to create a website where you could search any research by topic, by researcher, department or university and apply to work for them through the website,” Katz said.
Katz and Victor worked with Zachary Feuerstein, a senior majoring in computer engineering, and Zachary Lite, a senior majoring in engineering, on the project. Both worked on backend development and coding for Research Connections, and Feuerstein is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
The site’s main feature is a search engine that allows graduate and undergraduate students to find and submit applications for research opportunities. It also features a newsfeed with information, such as publications and projects, specific to that lab or the researchers who work there.
“It’s Google meets LinkedIn for research,” said Avery Teplow, a junior majoring in psychology.
Teplow, who is working with Katz to expand the program, works with a team of 14 interns as well as professors to better understand their needs.
According to Teplow, the goal is to bridge the gap between researchers and students.
During the site’s launch on Monday, over 1,000 Binghamton University students signed up. Members of the Research Connection team approached students, encouraging them to create accounts.
“It was founded in Binghamton and we want Binghamton to have this first,” Katz said. “The turnout exceed expectations. Even the administrators of the library and of the New Union were awesome in saying they support our cause and helping us think of ways to increase PR. The library wants us to put up a permanent banner in those glass cases by the entrance.”
Research Connection is working with Per Stromhaug, assistant vice president for innovation and economic development and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships office, as part of its Student Incubator program. The program provides free office space and mentors to student-run start-ups.
“The team seems to be fantastic,” Stromhaug said. “For being students, they’re almost like professional businesspeople and developers. So that’s really impressive.”
According to Stromhaug, coordinators aim to replace existing research opportunity search programs such as “Find A SUNY Scholar.” He said Research Connection could be an appealing alternative as it gives more comprehensive information on the jobs, researchers and their labs, as opposed to just a database of labs.
Katz says he is working with Stromhaug and the SUNY Levin Institute, which develops and manages innovative programs for SUNY institutions, in hopes of eventually expanding the model to all universities.
The Research Connection team is working with campus coordinators at 12 other universities such as Columbia, Massachusetts Institution of Technology, Boston University and New York University.
According to Katz, the company has received “lower six figures of investment money” from investors, who include friends and family. Although the website is free for users, Research Connection needed money for marketing and web development. Research Connection is working with a market research team to measure the number of active users and the responses to the website.
Michael Wan, a junior majoring in human development, says he sees Research Connection as a helpful tool for students applying to graduate school or looking for a job.
“I don’t have a specific need to research,” Wan said, “but it’s a cool asset to have in case I want to have that extra edge in building a resume or putting something out there for networking to kind of bring attention to myself.”