June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
New Engineering Educators
13.162.1 - 13.162.8
This paper strives to provide guidance on how to structure a summer REU participant project so that the student has an extremely positive research experience, quality data is obtained, and the project reaches a completion point in 10 short weeks. The programmatic activities mentioned here are examples derived from the author’s REU program, “Chemistry / Chemical Engineering: The Bonds Between Us” . Assessment figures for this program can be found in the paper, “Outcomes of a Novel REU Site in Chemistry & Chemical Engineering,” by Adrienne Minerick in the 2008 ASEE Proceedings . Other REU programs will usually have similar activities and the advice included here can be tailored to those programs. Further, the advice included here can be tailored to structure a supplemental REU experience on any NSF grant [see reference 1 for more information].
Purpose and Goal of REU Programs REU site programs may run during the school year, but the most common form is a summer internship. A ten-week summer experience that enables an undergraduate student to emerge himself or herself in research can be a life- changing experience. For the students, it really is a no-risk chance to see if they love research. The students are paid a stipend along with other support which may include housing, food, trips, and miscellaneous. Students are typically paired with a faculty advisor and possibly a graduate student mentor. These mentors help guide the undergraduate student through their first independent research experience. Exit evaluations and discussions with participants often indicate that they are surprised when their projects do not work perfectly in line with the objectives they were assigned at the beginning of the summer (unlike the “cookbook” undergraduate lab classes they may have previously experienced). A previous REU participant summarized this feeling in his / her exit evaluation as, “It's called re-search - things fail, and you are supposed to try again. Otherwise it would just be called search.” The purpose of REU programs is to provide a meaningful, hands-on experience that hopefully excites students into pursuing advanced degrees in their field.
Professional development and research skills training are typically interspersed with laboratory or simulations research. Extracurricular activities including site visits of industry or national research labs, social activities, interactive workshops on essential topics such as diversity and research ethics, and an end-summer research symposium. This presentation at the conclusion of the summer is a perfect motivator for students to pull their project to completion and then submit an abstract to present at regional or national professional society meetings, an activity that simultaneously provides productivity measures for the faculty member.
Programs are typically designed with variations of the following attributes in mind: • State-of-the-art research experiences that motivate students to pursue graduate degrees in engineering. o Broad participation of underrepresented groups o Increased appreciation and understanding of research • Sense of community among REU students, faculty, and graduate student mentors • Enhanced educational and mentoring experience for graduate students The faculty mentor plays a key role in the process. New faculty especially need to make sure that the effort they put into mentoring a student in this worthwhile program has a return on its investment. In other words, the participant’s project should lead to at least a presentation or poster at a professional meeting, but more ideally, it should provide a substantial contribution to a paper prepared for peer-review.
ENABLING MEANINGFUL RESEARCH EXPERIENCES The primary goal of a summer research experience is to offer an informative, positive immersion in research so that participants can make an informed decision as to whether they would like to pursue an advanced degree or pursue a career in research. Therefore, it is necessary to have well-defined projects that enable successively more independence as the participant’s competency grows. It is important that the project enable true research and that the participant does not simply act as a lab technician for a graduate student’s project. This section will discuss how to structure 10-week REU student projects to maximize productivity for the faculty member’s research while simultaneously facilitating a transformative and positive experience for the undergraduate both in the laboratory and in crafting their own professional career credentials.
2008 ASEE Southeast Section Conference
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