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An ongoing National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) aims to enhance graduate education by integrating research and professional skill development within a diverse, inclusive and supportive academy. This contribution will describe three interventions within this NRT, namely, a transferable skills course, an interdisciplinary research proposal and project, and a multidisciplinary research symposium. Moreover, the assessment and outcomes of each of these interventions will be discussed.
In addition to technical or “hard” skills, recent graduates need – but very often lack – “soft” skills. Thus, participants in this NRT receive training on key transferrable skills in a 3-credit hour 500-level course. This course offers participants theoretical and practical training in key skills, including ethics, research, communication, teaching, funding procurement, entrepreneurship, management, teamwork, conflict resolution, mentoring, leadership, and outreach. In addition, wellness and well-being skills to not only survive, but thrive in graduate school and beyond are also covered. All trainees register for this course, which is also open to other STEM graduate students and is co-taught by the faculty associated with the NRT as well as by guest lecturers with expertise in different areas. A description of the training offered for the development of each skill – as well as the results of its assessment – will be presented in this contribution. Notable evaluation results included graduate students identifying the primary instructors, course materials, resources for research, and guest lecturers as the most helpful aspects of the course. Additionally, students showed a significant gain in participative decision-making.
In this course, students form several multi-departmental interdisciplinary student teams. These teams are charged with preparing and submitting an interdisciplinary collaborative proposal in a course-long exercise including all elements of a funding opportunity, namely, a solicitation, a competitive peer-review, and a reporting process. Review criteria include the extent of collaboration between trainees from different departments, the extent of inter- and trans-disciplinarity, as well as the intellectual merit and broader impacts of the work proposed. Meritorious proposals are selected for funding, which allows the multi-departmental student teams to receive and manage funds to perform the interdisciplinary research proposed. In turn, this provides trainees ample opportunities not only to hone the skills described above, but also to participate in a trans-departmental internship while working with their team on their project. Through evaluation survey responses and focus group discussions, graduate students expressed appreciation for the opportunity to write an interdisciplinary research proposal as part of the course. Students also noted that the multidisciplinary approach that allowed them to work with both students and faculty from other disciplines had positively influenced their research.
This NRT has also launched a multidisciplinary research symposium comprising all elements of a scientific conference, i.e., a call for abstracts, plenary and keynote talks, as well as both breakout and poster sessions. Participating in this symposium – and in its organization – gives trainees yet another avenue to practice the skills described above, all while providing them with valuable networking opportunities. A more detailed description of this event, as well the results of its evaluation, will also be presented in this contribution.
Santillan-Jimenez, E., & Schutzman, C., & Mabisi, K. (2022, August), Description, assessment, and outcomes of three National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) components: transferable skills course, interdisciplinary research proposal and project, and multidisciplinary symposium Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41911
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