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Examining Student Outcomes from a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program: Year Two Results

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


D. Jake Follmer The Pennsylvania State University - University Park

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D. Jake Follmer is a doctoral candidate in educational psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. His interests are in issues related to learning, assessment, and program evaluation.

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Sarah E. Zappe The Pennsylvania State University - University Park

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Dr. Sarah Zappe is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She holds a doctoral degree in educational psychology emphasizing applied measurement and testing. In her position, Sarah is responsible for developing instructional support programs for faculty, providing evaluation support for educational proposals and projects, and working with faculty to publish educational research. Her research interests primarily involve creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship education.

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Esther Gomez The Pennsylvania State University - University Park

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Dr. Esther Gomez is an assistant professor in the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Gomez's research focuses on exploring how the interplay of chemical and mechanical signals regulates cell behavior and function and the progression of disease. She is also the Co-Director of a National Science Foundation sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates program focused on the Integration of Biology and Materials in Chemical Engineering.

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Manish Kumar The Pennsylvania State University

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Manish Kumar is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and a current co-Director of the Penn State REU on "Integration of Biology and Materials in Chemical Engineering". He obtained his PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and conducted postdoctoral research at the Harvard Medical School. He has 7 years of industrial research experience in environmental consulting and is dedicated to training young professionals.

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The importance of undergraduate research experiences in facilitating students’ research-based skills and development has been supported in numerous studies1-4. The current study presents a follow-up, second-year evaluation of an in-progress research experiences for undergraduates (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, which focuses on the integration of biology and materials. Participating students (N=13; 39% female; 54% underrepresented minority status) completed measures of research-based skills and experience, likelihood of pursuing graduate school, and openness to collaborating with others both prior to and after completion of the ten week REU program. Participants also completed in-depth interviews as well as measures of REU program satisfaction and ratings of REU program elements after completing the REU.

Students demonstrated significant gains in measures of research experience and specific research-based skills. Students also rated themselves as open to collaborating with other students and faculty during research both before and after completing the program. Ratings of program elements indicated positive ratings of the working relationship with research mentors, the working relationship with research group members, the amount of time spent with research mentors, and the advice given about graduate school. Improvement was suggested for the element of amount of time spent doing meaningful research. REU program participants indicated anticipated completion of a presentation, talk, or poster at a professional conference (25%) and involvement in co-writing a paper for either an academic journal or an undergraduate research journal (33%). Approximately 58% of participants indicated plans for some level of graduate school at program completion.

Interviews of program participants corroborated the indication of research-based gains and provided a more in-depth understanding of impact of the program. Specifically, interviews provided information about participants’ interests in pursuing the program, perceptions of the effectiveness of specific program elements, and suggestions for improvement. Implications for the development of research programs for undergraduate students are discussed.

Follmer, D. J., & Zappe, S. E., & Gomez, E., & Kumar, M. (2016, June), Examining Student Outcomes from a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program: Year Two Results Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26793

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