Asee peer logo

Engineering Research At Predominately Undergraduate Institutions: Strategies And Pitfalls For The New Engineering Educator

Download Paper |


1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.238.1 - 4.238.15

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Robert Engelken

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 0575

Engineering Research at Predominately Undergraduate Institutions: Strategies and Pitfalls for the New Engineering Educator

Dr. Robert D. Engelken Arkansas State University


This paper will discuss challenges and opportunities experienced by new engineering educators in conducting research at primarily undergraduate, nonresearch, teaching-oriented colleges and universities. Such institutions often contrast with flagship research institutions in regard to facilities, support, philosophy, and policies regarding research. However, research is still usually important for promotion, tenure, merit pay, and university image, thus often requiring the new professor to perform research with less-than-optimum resources and encouragement. Of course, a research record is critical to maintaining marketability and mobility.

Successful research programs can be built at such institutions. Careful selection of research niches is important to minimize cost and maximize relevance to institutional and regional concerns, particularly those of industries which can support applied research. Creative use of undergraduate research assistants is usually critical. Seed money programs aimed toward new faculty or faculty at undergraduate institutions, for example, the National Science Foundation Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Program, should be pursued by the new engineering educator at nonresearch universities. One’s superiors must be made aware of all benefits, long term versus short term and intangible versus tangible, of a healthy research program not only to the professor but to the institution. One must make it easy for those holding the purse strings to say "yes" to reasonable, well thought-out requests for support of research and then provide frequent feedback as to its successes and value.

The paper will discuss these and other aspects of engineering research at such institutions, including ways to avoid possible mistakes. It will draw upon the author’s experience in building a research program in semiconductor materials at a predominately undergraduate institution as he was climbing the ladder toward tenure, promotion, and reputation. It should provide "savvy" for the new engineering educator establishing research in such an environment.

I. Introduction

Research has historically been a component of the mission of universities and most colleges1. Emphasis on research has been heaviest at graduate degree - granting land grant or flagship institutions but mission statements; public relations material; promotion, tenure, and merit pay

Engelken, R. (1999, June), Engineering Research At Predominately Undergraduate Institutions: Strategies And Pitfalls For The New Engineering Educator Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1999 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015