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Exploring the Experience of Undergraduate Research: A Case Study Using facebook

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade

Tagged Division


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Page Numbers

23.580.1 - 23.580.18



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Paper Authors


Katy Luchini-Colbry Michigan State University

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Katy Luchini-Colbry is the Director for Graduate Recruiting at the College of Engineering at Michigan State University, where she completed degrees in political theory and computer science. A recipient of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, she received her Ph.D. and M.S.E. in computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan. She has published nearly two dozen peer-reviewed works related to her interests in educational technology and enhancing undergraduate education through hands-on learning. As a volunteer for Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, Luchini-Colbry facilitates interactive seminars on interpersonal communications and problem solving skills for engineering students across the U.S.

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Tobias Ortega-Knight University of the Virgin Islands

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Charles Huang Chen Michigan State University

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Danny Lynch University of the Virgin Islands

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Kathleen Anne Fitzsimons Michigan State University

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Crystal D Alton

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Juan L. Mena Lapaix Michigan State University

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Joshua Drost Michigan State University

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Garrett Kohler

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Exploring the Experience of Undergraduate Research: A Case Study Using facebookUndergraduate research is a “high impact” educational practice [1] that can prepare and recruitstudents for graduate study, engage and retain engineering undergraduates, connect students withfaculty mentors and help students understand research in a broader context [2], [3]. Typically,undergraduate research experiences are evaluated through surveys of students and mentors, orfeedback gathered after various program activities. These assessment methods have beensuccessfully used to measure both short-term impacts [4–7] and longer-term outcomes [3], [8] ofundergraduate research experiences. Pre- and post-testing can assess changes in students’understanding and perceptions over the course of a research experience, but may not capture “realtime” evolution in students’ understanding.In an effort to better understand the day-to-day experience of undergraduate researchers, eightstudents participated in a self-study of their own experiences as undergraduate research assistantsat a large university. These students were part of a larger summer program, which engagedstudents in ten weeks of full-time research with faculty in various Engineering disciplines.facebook was used as a platform for student conversations, and the resulting discussions capturestudents’ thoughts, ideas and reactions to various aspects of the undergraduate researchexperience as they were engaged in those activities.Students were provided with several conversational prompts, which were informed by priorresearch on key elements of successful undergraduate research programs. In addition, studentsinitiated discussions about a variety of topics, including research; the publication process;graduate studies; and professional careers. Analyzed over time, students’ conversationsdemonstrate positive gains in domain knowledge, research abilities, and personal, academic andprofessional goals, including:  Growth in students’ research skills, familiarity with research processes and content/domain knowledge  Students receiving guidance, support and mentoring from faculty and other, more experienced researchers  Developing a community of peers for students’ personal and professional support  Overcoming research challenges and helping students persevere through obstacles  Increasing students’ independence and autonomy, while also encouraging collaborative research  Opportunities for students to develop written and oral communication skills for research contexts  Helping students understand the nature of graduate studies, and helping to clarify students’ personal, educational and professional goalsThe conversations recorded in this case study support existing research about the key elements ofmeaningful undergraduate research experiences. In addition, this project offers a uniqueopportunity to observe the evolution of students’ understanding during the course of anundergraduate research experience and identifies specific prompts and activities that canencourage deep learning as part of an undergraduate research experience.[1] G. D. Kuh, High-impact educational practices: what they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2008.[2] A.-B. Hunter, S. L. Laursen, and E. Seymour, “Becoming a Scientist: The Role of Undergraduate Research in Students’ Cognitive, Personal, and Professional Development,” Science Education, vol. 91, no. 1, pp. 36–74, Jan. 2007.[3] D. Lopatto, Science in Solution: The Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning. Research Corporation for Science Advancement, 2009.[4] K. Luchini-Colbry, K. Steinke-Wawrzynski, R. Mangiavellano, and E. McCune, “Guiding Them to Graduate School: Professional Development for Undergraduates Participating in Engineering Research Programs,” in Proceedings of the 2012 ASEE National Conference, San Antonio, TX, 2012.[5] E. Seymour, A.-B. Hunter, S. L. Laursen, and T. DeAntoni, “Establishing the Benefits of Research Experiences for Undergraduates in the Sciences: First Findings from a Three- Year Study,” Science Education, vol. 88, no. 4, pp. 493–534, Jul. 2007.[6] S. Grimberg, T. Langen, L. Compeau, and S. Powers, “A Theme-Based Seminar on Environmental Sustainability Improves Participant Satisfaction in an Undergraduate Summer Research Program,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 97, no. 1, pp. 95–103, Jan. 2008.[7] D. Lopatto, “Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE): First Findings,” Cell Biology Education, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 270 –277, Winter 2004.[8] B. A. Nagda, S. R. Gregerman, J. Jonides, W. von Hippel, and J. S. Lerner, “Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research Partnerships Affect Student Retention,” Review of Higher Education, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 55–72, 1998.

Luchini-Colbry, K., & Ortega-Knight, T., & Chen, C. H., & Lynch, D., & Fitzsimons, K. A., & Alton, C. D., & Mena Lapaix, J. L., & Drost, J., & Kohler, G. (2013, June), Exploring the Experience of Undergraduate Research: A Case Study Using facebook Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19594

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