Image of UROP UROP
Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), 1969–Present

“MIT is deeply committed to the premise that undergraduates should inhabit a very special world — that of a moral and intellectual universe with certain fixed stars, but also with wide spaces in between where students can find room to wander and to make their own paths.”

— Margaret MacVicar, founder of UROP

Jennifer Wiseman was one of these students. Attending the MIT Astronomy Field Camp at Lowell Observatory in January 1987, she discovered a comet while scrutinizing these glass plate negatives. The initial observation led to a spring UROP project that became her undergraduate thesis and launched her career as an astronomer.  Inspired by Edwin Land, inventor of instant photography, physics professor Margaret MacVicar founded MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program in 1969. During that first year, 20 students participated. Today, more than 85 percent of undergraduates participate in the program. MIT has spent well over $100 million on the UROP program—transforming the lives of students, redefining the nature of research at MIT, and even inspiring the award-winning public television series, Design Squad.

Discovery of Periodic Comet 114P/Wiseman Skiff
Field Camp Cartoon, 1987
Stephen Slivan

Two Astronomical Glass Plate Negatives, December 28, 1986
Brian Skiff, Lowell Observatory

photo: Michael Cardinali for MIT Museum

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