On Nov. 12, the Yale Undergraduate Research Association released the print edition of the first issue of the Yale Undergraduate Research Journal, marking the formal launch of the first peer-reviewed publication to focus on the interdisciplinary research conducted by Yale students.
The publication included nine student research works, as well as a foreword by James Rothman ’71, who is the Sterling Professor of Cell Biology. It had received 104 submissions for the original issue. The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal, or YURJ, plans to publish two print issues a year, including work from the humanities, social sciences and STEM fields.
“I’d always wanted to hear more about the research endeavors of my Yale peers, and I guessed others might also be interested,” Lukas Corey ’21, the editor-in-chief of the first issue, wrote in an email to the News. “The topics we’re highlighting in our first issue, online and in print, cover culturally competent mental health treatment, the experience of Black queer men at Yale, environmental racism, COVID biology, and more. Research is one of the core functions in a university, and undergrads deserve to have their contributions in these areas recognized, showcased, and praised.”
YURJ’s board plans to institute a system of frequent editorial turnover, with Selena Lee ’21 serving as editor-in-chief for the next issue. A core group of three managing editors oversaw the production of the first issue, aided by three associate editors, a webmaster, a production editor and nineteen faculty advisors representing different academic fields. YURJ’s staff will expand to include a business team, a social media manager and additional associate editors for their second issue.
According to several of YURJ’s founders, the need for a publication devoted to undergraduate research was glaring among Yale’s undergraduates, especially given the success of similar journals at other universities. Corey recalled discovering the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal and recognizing that Yale was “just about the only top university without one.” Henry Jacob ’21, who acted as managing editor of humanities and president of discovery for the first issue, described a similar realization when he met Northwestern University students involved with the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal in 2019.
“In science classes, when I heard that various scientists were getting to the same discovery at the same time, not knowing each other, it kind of shocked me as an odd thing, but this experience really showed me that that happens all the time, and that’s the case with this journal,” Jacob said. “I come from the humanities, and working with students from STEM and social sciences, we kind of all came from different perspectives and had a similar idea.”
As a research journal, YURJ is peer-reviewed by graduate students and professors, helping to ensure both that the research is accurate and making it possible for YURJ to become a citable and indexed journal.
Because of this commitment to accuracy, YURJ’s editors hope that the journal will serve not only as an outlet for student work but as a valuable resource for the dissemination of information.
“I feel like there’s so much conflict about what is true in the world, just in terms of general information,” said Nicholas Archambault ’21, the managing editor of STEM for the first issue. “We have a government that ignores and consistently repudiates valid, vetted scientific findings by experts in their fields. When you think about the climate that we’re in right now with this increasingly polarized society, so at odds over what is true and what is not, I think research comes to the fore as one of the only methods I can think of to potentially get society as a whole back on track.”
Although the editorial board began planning the first issue of YURJ before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the 2020 spring semester, complications from the pandemic did not significantly affect production. According to production manager Mafalda von Alvensleben ’23, the editorial board did “a really good job of keeping everyone in the loop,” through regular video conferences, a Slack channel and a “hyper-organized” Google Drive.
YURJ aims to eventually become a citable journal, and while this is a long-term goal, the editorial board ensured that the journal’s standard of publication was, according to Corey, “whether a professional reader in the field would learn something from it.” However, Corey emphasized that the journal’s audience is not limited to professors, graduate students and other experts, urging “anyone who might be interested in what Yale undergraduates are up to” to read the journal.
“Whether high school students curious about college research, students here wondering what their peers are doing, parents who want to know what their kids are up to, or anyone who just loves learning awesome and important stuff, we think there’s something here for everyone,” Corey said.
According to Lee, who served as the managing editor of social sciences for this issue, YURJ plans to release their second edition this spring.
Lee said that anyone interested in joining the journal’s staff was “definitely more than welcome,” explaining that the founding of the publication presents undergraduates with a unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor of what editors hope will become an established Yale institution.
“I think that at this time in particular, joining now kind of gives people an opportunity to really shape how this journal is going to be as an institution in the years to come,” Lee said.
A digital edition of the first print issue of YURJ is now available online.
Lucy Hodgman | firstname.lastname@example.org