What is the Institutional Review Board?

The Institutional Review Board's purpose is to review proposed research studies involving human participants to safeguard the rights, safety, and welfare of people involved in research activities conducted at or sponsored by the University of St. Thomas. The University is officially registered in a Federalwide Assurance with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through which the University assures that all activities related to human subjects research, regardless of source of support, will be approved by the IRB in accordance with federal regulations and ethical principles outlined in the Belmont Report. 

As a Catholic institution, the mission of the University of St. Thomas obligates members of the college community "to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good." The research community can support the University mission by striving to ensure the respect and welfare of every research participant.

What do Tommies have to say about their research and the IRB review process?

Have you wondered what it is like to conduct human subjects research? Read the experience of three St. Thomas undergraduate students who have had their research approved through the IRB process.

Alison is an education major at St. Thomas who has conducted several studies that have been approved through the IRB. She was first inspired by her mother to enter into engineering education and effectiveness. Since then, Alison has only deepened her passion for her research.

While human subjects research can be interesting, there are challenges that investigators can face. Alison admits that one of the more difficult aspects of her research is developing the language used in her studies. Alison has worked with children from kindergarten to high school levels. She notes that these age groups all have significantly different levels of understanding and comprehension so finding a language that is accessible to each of these groups can be challenging. Nevertheless, there are many rewards to conducting research.

Being able to share her results with others is what is most rewarding for Alison. There is limited research on engineering education effectiveness so being able to share information on this topic is really fulfilling.  

Laura Kvasnicka was first encouraged to look into research by her father. Laura was looking do an independent study in Tanzania when she was advised to speak with Dr. Amy Finnegan of the Justice and Peace Studies Department. Since then, Laura has conducted several human subjects research studies alongside Dr. Finnegan.

For Laura, one of the more challenging aspects of human subjects research can be the data analysis. Other forms of research are cut and dry, but with qualitative research, answers can be harder to find. It is the job of the researcher to find themes and other patterns within the data. However, Laura mentions that there is a lot to be gained from her research. The most rewarding aspect of Laura’s research is the interviews because they provide a unique environment where people share their experiences. Additionally, during a qualitative interview, there is no hypothesis to be answered, but rather a chance to see what you find. And as Laura notes, there is always something new to find.

For students who are new to the IRB process, Laura advises them to not be too intimated by the initial application. It may seem daunting at first, but Laura has found it extremely valuable for constructing her research studies. In fact, this aspect of the IRB process taught her the most because it makes her solidify her research design.


Maya is a class of 2016 St. Thomas graduate from the Health and Human Performance Department. She was first inspired to conduct human subjects research by her adviser, Dr. Lesley Scibora from the Health and Human Performance Department.

When it comes to human subjects research, the most difficult aspect for Maya is the eligibility and recruitment of her participants. Maya uses radiation in her studies so there are challenges in finding the appropriate research populations. Nevertheless, Maya enjoys her research, especially when it comes to the interviews because it allows her to hear about the experiences of others.

For students new to the IRB process, Maya’s advice is to take the time to look at the details of the application and have a few people review your application prior to submission. For Maya there was much to be learned from conducting human subjects research, as it has taught her how to be a better communicator and critical thinker. Having to piece together all of her data is something Maya has found most rewarding about her research experience.