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Many Curiosities, One Research Institution

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Will Shelden

Many Curiosities, One Research Institution

Do you want to take a closer look at a particular issue? Do you want to search for solutions to a specific problem? Do you want to add hands-on work into your academic experience in college?

At the University of Oklahoma, you can do just that, even as early as freshman year. OU is the largest research institution in the state, and impactful research is being conducted across all disciplines.

Recent geology graduate Will Shelden is one of the students who embraced research opportunities as a Sooner, focusing on Oklahoma’s long-term water security.

His interest in this topic began when he read “Cadillac Desert” by Mark Reisner, a popular environmental studies book that summarizes America’s water infrastructure crisis and relating issues in the Southwestern United States, Shelden said. This prompted Shelden to consider if similar issues could affect Oklahoma and surrounding areas in the future, and he approached Dr. Richard Elmore, the former director of the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics, with the topic idea, who provided guidance and input throughout the process.

“What I decided to do was research what that impact would look like, what parts of our state would be affected, and what the sort of economic and social ramifications of a water shortage in our region would look like,” explained Shelden, who is from Morganton, North Carolina, and is the son of two OU grads.

Last semester, Shelden spoke at TEDxOU before traveling to a conference in Arkansas to share his research. He also presented at the ConcoPhillips Student Research Symposium on campus in Norman, winning first place for undergraduate research.

Shelden is now attending the University of Tulsa College of Law where he is doing a joint degree program for his Juris Doctor and a master’s degree in geosciences. He eventually wants to practice energy resource law with a focus on water rights and management – an interest sparked once he dove into his research topic.

“For the research process at OU, you have a lot of options,” Shelden explained. “You can find a professor who’s doing research and you can shadow them, you can help them with their research, you can just develop a relationship with the faculty member and then see if there is something you want to do or if you have your own idea you can find a faculty member who would want to help you with it … Even if there’s something you're passionate about outside of your typical studies that you want to do, OU will be a place where you can find a way to do it.”

Visit the Office of Undergraduate Research to learn more and read about some of the exciting work OU students are doing right now and learn about opportunities and resources available for those interested in doing undergraduate research while on campus.