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An NSF REU Site with Integrated Academia-Industry Research Experience – Development, Implementation, and Lessons Learned

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

NSF Grantees: REU 2

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Zhaoshuo Jiang P.E. San Francisco State University Orcid 16x16

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Zhaoshuo Jiang graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering. Before joining San Francisco State University as an assistant professor, he worked as a structural engineering professional at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) LLP. As a licensed professional engineer in the states of Connecticut and California, Dr. Jiang has been involved in the design of a variety of low-rise and high-rise projects. His current research interests mainly focus on Smart Structures Technology, Structural Control and Health Monitoring and Innovative Engineering Education.

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Juan M. Caicedo University of South Carolina

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Dr. Caicedo is a professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Carolina. His research interests are in structural dynamics, model updating and engineering education. He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Universidad del Valle in Colombia, South America, and his M.Sc. and D.Sc. from Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Caicedo's teaching interests include the development of critical thinking in undergraduate and graduate education. More information about Dr. Caicedo's research can be found online at

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Robert Petrulis EPRE Consulting LLC

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Dr. Petrulis is an independent consultant specializing in education-related project evaluation and research. He is based in Columbia, South Carolina.

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Smart Structures Technologies (SST) is receiving considerable attention as the demands for high performance in structural systems is increasing in recent years. Although both the academic and industrial worlds are seeking ways to utilize SST, there is a significant gap between engineering science in academia and engineering practice in the industry. To bridge the gap and facilitate the research infusion, University 1 and University 2 collaborated with industrial partners to establish a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site program, which provides undergraduate students a unique opportunity to experience research in both academic and industrial settings through cooperative research projects.

This student-driven joint venture between academia and industry is expected to establish a virtuous circle for knowledge exchange and contribute to advancing fundamental research and implementation of SST. Experiencing research in both worlds – the academic world where they experience the value of guided research and the industrial world that is fast-paced and requires researchers to act independently – will help students transition from a relatively dependent status to an independent status as their competence level increases. Besides, the collaborative research experience will help students establish professional network connections, which will be highly valuable for students’ professional development.

The program features: formal training, workshops, and supplemental activities in the conduct of research in academia and industry; innovative research experience through engagement in projects with scientific and practical merits in both academic and industrial environments; experience in conducting laboratory experiments; and opportunities to present the research outcomes to the broader community at professional settings. The underrepresented minority (UPM) students are the main targets of this REU program. Recruitment of participants targeted 20 collaborating minority and primarily undergraduate institutions (15 of them are Hispanic-Serving Institutions, HSI) with limited science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research capabilities.

In this paper, the development of the program, together with the details of the first and second-year program is described. The challenges and lesson-learned on the collaboration between the two participating universities, communications with industrial partners, recruitment of the students, set up of the evaluation plans, and development and implementation of the program are discussed. The preliminary evaluation results and recommendations are also shared.

Jiang, Z., & Caicedo, J. M., & Petrulis, R. (2020, June), An NSF REU Site with Integrated Academia-Industry Research Experience – Development, Implementation, and Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34140

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