Traditionally, undergraduate education has taken place in the classroom, while research has been for graduate students and faculty. No more. College and universities are pushing hard to get many more undergraduates involved in research.
Occasionally, undergraduates make genuinely important research contributions — such as the University of Michigan students involved in the discovery of a key breast cancer gene.
It’s also good for a college’s reputation, which depends on students progressing. Undergraduate research has become almost a prerequisite for top graduate programs.