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Factors Influencing Student Success In A Summer Research Program: Formal Versus Informal Relational Structures

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Education: Upperclass Years

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.576.1 - 15.576.7



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Paper Authors


Monica Cox Purdue University

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Monica F. Cox, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She obtained a B.S. in mathematics from Spelman College, a M.S. in industrial engineering from the University of Alabama, and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy Studies from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Teaching interests relate to the professional development of graduate engineering students and to leadership, policy, and change in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Primary research projects explore the preparation of engineering doctoral students for careers in academia and industry and the development of engineering education assessment tools. She is a NSF Faculty Early Career (CAREER) award winner and is a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

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Angie Andriot Purdue University

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Angie Andriot is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Purdue University. Her dissertation, entitled†Gender and Engineering
Identity Development among Undergraduate Majors,” is partially funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Purdue Research Foundation. Angie also works part-time doing research for the College of Engineering at Purdue University.

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Stephen Beaudoin Purdue University

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

Factors influencing Student Success in Summer Research Programs: Formal versus Informal Relational Structures


This research examines the differential impact of formal versus informal relational structures in determining student outcomes in summer research programs. In an effort to generate student responses and feedback regarding the success of the summer 2008 DAACI program, undergraduate participants were individually interviewed during the second-to-last week of the program. The interviews lasted an average of 45 minutes and ranged from about 20 minutes to 1hr 15 minutes. Students were asked a series of questions about themselves and their reactions to the program. Such information is useful in determining successful research program designs, and can be applied to future summer research programs. Overall, the main factor in ensuring the student has a positive summer research experience is their relationship with their mentors. Those who had helpful, involved mentors or graduate student mentors had better experiences than those who did not. Although interactions with fellow students were important to them, the formal social events were not beneficial, and were frequently completely unattended. Students much preferred the informal interactions they engaged in throughout the summer, as well as the formal weekly meetings and Monday lunches. Some students had professors who also met with them weekly, and found that to be helpful. A small group of students met weekly for a study group, and also found this to be much more beneficial than the golf and movie outings. Implications for how this information can be used in designing future programs are discussed.


Terenzini1 writes, "Learning is maximized when it is situated in a real and meaningful context, when real problems are encountered and students are afforded opportunities for active engagement with those problems.” One way to achieve these active engagements is via inquiry- based or research based-learning.2 Rather than working individually or statically, students involved in research-based learning engage in dialogues about research or discovery with faculty mentors throughout their undergraduate academic careers, thereby having the opportunity for "accidental collisions of ideas."3 These research experiences differ greatly from the most common form of undergraduate teaching today—lecture.4 To allow students more opportunities to engage in research-based learning, organizations such as the NSF recommend that research deliberately be included within undergraduate education curricula.5

We define undergraduate research as “undergraduate engagement in authentic research conducted in intensive summer long program under the direct supervision of faculty researchers.”6 In addition to allowing students to explore new ideas, undergraduate research experiences benefit students in numerous ways. These experiences can have positive effects upon students' heightened interests in post-graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers,7 students' decisions to pursue graduate studies,8 and students' persistence to graduation.9 Kardash10 found that both students and faculty mentors thought that students had increased their research skills during their undergraduate research experiences. One

Cox, M., & Andriot, A., & Beaudoin, S. (2010, June), Factors Influencing Student Success In A Summer Research Program: Formal Versus Informal Relational Structures Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16252

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