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Defining a Successful Undergraduate Research Experience in Engineering

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.441.1 - 26.441.13



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Paper Authors


John R. Reisel University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

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Dr. John R. Reisel is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). He serves as associate director of the Center for Alternative Fuels and co-director of the Energy Conversion Efficiency Lab. In addition to research into engineering education, his efforts focus on combustion and energy utilization. Dr. Reisel was a 2005 recipient of the UWM Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, a 2000 recipient of the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Teaching Award, and a 1998 recipient of the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. Dr. Reisel received his B.M.E. degree from Villanova University in 1989, his M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1994.

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Luciana Cancado University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Cindy M Walker University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

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Cindy Walker is the Associate Dean of Research and Engaged Scholarship and the Director of the Consulting Office for Research and Evaluation (CORE) in the School of Education. She is also a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology.
Walker conducts research in the area of testing and measurement. She has worked with the Certification and Skills Assessment team at Microsoft Corporation, the Office of the Superintendent of Instruction in the state of Washington, the Division of Research and Assessment at Milwaukee Public School District, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the WI Department of Public Instruction, the National Science Foundation, Junior Achievement of Southeastern WI, the Center for Self-Sufficiency, Appleton Public Library, and many local school districts.
Walker received an M.S. in mathematics education from Illinois State University and a Ph.D. in quantitative research methodologies from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign.

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Dian Mitrayani University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

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Defining a Successful Undergraduate Research Experience in EngineeringAbstractIn recent years, there has been interest in broadening the participation of students inundergraduate research experiences in engineering disciplines. While there has beenconsiderable study and analysis of the benefits achieved by high-achieving undergraduatestudents engaged in research activities, relatively little consideration has been given tothe impact and benefits of research experiences on engineering students who are betterdescribed as “average”. Yet, these are the students to whom undergraduate researchopportunities need to be provided in order to achieve broader participation. Therefore, itis beneficial to understand how these experiences actually impact “average” students soas to not design programs that will not meet the students’ expectations or needs.The primary purpose of this NSF-sponsored work is to provide definitions of whatconstitutes a successful undergraduate research experience for a wide range of students.Particular attention is devoted to students whose academic background and performanceis solid, but not outstanding. For such students, some of the benefits seen in high-achieving students, such as increased likelihood of graduate school attendance, may notbe appropriate measures of a successful experience. Through surveys and interviews ofstudents who have engaged in undergraduate research experiences in engineering, as wellas surveys and interviews with engineering faculty, we have developed preliminarydefinitions of a successful research experience. These results will be presented in thepaper. For example, a larger percentage of these students found that the undergraduateresearch experience increased their confidence in their abilities to be a successfulpracticing engineer than those who found the experience increased their interest ingraduate school. The implication of this is that for these “average” students, a successfulresearch experience should be defined in terms of improving the skills needed to bepracticing engineers with B.S. degrees rather than inspiring them to immediately pursuegraduate studies.In addition to these preliminary definitions of a successful undergraduate researchexperience, the paper will also present insights gained from the study with regards towhat makes the experience more positive for the students. Finally, while the diversity ofthe students studied to date is not large, some observations of the overall impact andeffectiveness of the research experiences for different demographic groups will bediscussed.

Reisel, J. R., & Cancado, L., & Walker, C. M., & Mitrayani , D. (2015, June), Defining a Successful Undergraduate Research Experience in Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23780

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