I am the Graduate Coordinator of my department at my state research university. I am currently evaluating several PhD applications for a prestigious internal fellowship. The catch is that, while I am in the math department, I am only evaluating applications from other STEM departments. When it comes to accomplishments in the laboratory sciences, I am often out of my depth, and I usually just admit as much and move on. However, I've just come to something in which I wonder whether academic cultural differences could give me the wrong idea (rather than no idea).
Namely, an undergraduate student in chemistry has written a review article under the direction of a faculty coauthor. The faculty member says of the student:
[S/he] was responsible for assembling the preliminary bibliography and writing the initial summaries of the main papers that we reviewed. [S/he] was primarily responsible for creating the schemes and figures used in the paper. While I did have to heavily edit [his/her] writing, which is to be expected, [s/he] really carried a bulk of the work. Consequently, [s/he] is first author on this paper.
(I did look at the article, but I won't violate confidentiality by describing it...and moreover I am completely incapable of meaningfully evaluating it.)
My question: how valuable/impressive is it for an undergraduate in chemistry to be the first author of a review article like this? By way of comparison, in mathematics there are almost no "review articles." The closest equivalent I know of are long articles published in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, which are more like historically oriented mini-courses on a mathematical subfield written by a leading expert in the field. This type of review article strikes more as a helpful library tool for a chemist interested in certain types of reactions and procedures. So it looks more like a moderate piece of service to the profession, and being first author sounds like the student carried out the assigned task more independently than not.
Is that accurate? Or is it a big plus for an undergraduate to have done work like this?