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Guiding Them to Graduate School: Professional Development for Undergraduates Participating in Engineering Research Programs

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Research and Graduate Studies

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.685.1 - 25.685.17



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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 more than a dozen papers 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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Korine Steinke Wawrzynski Michigann State University

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Director, Undergraduate Research

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Rachel Mangiavellano Michigan State University

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Evan McCune Michigan State University

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Guiding them to Graduate School: Professional Development for Undergraduates Participating in Engineering Research ProgramsAbstractWe discuss the structure and content of a 10-week summer program offering hands-on, faculty-mentored Engineering research experience for high achieving undergraduates. Our focus is onthe professional development activities that compliment students’ faculty-mentored research;these activities were re-designed to emphasize two goals: (1) preparing students for graduatestudies, and (2) helping students develop an interdisciplinary perspective on research activities.In Summer 2011, 50 undergraduates from 18 majors and 5 institutions participated in theresearch program, working with 47 faculty mentors from 6 Engineering departments at a large,research-intensive university. Each student worked full-time on a substantive, faculty-guidedresearch project, culminating in a research poster presented at a campus-wide symposiuminvolving more than 125 undergraduates from 24 institutions and multiple research disciplines.In addition to their individual research, students participated in a series of professionaldevelopment activities designed to introduce them to graduate study. Specifically, studentsparticipated in: (1) bi-weekly seminars covering topics in interdisciplinary Engineering research;(2) bi-weekly workshops on the graduate school application process; (3) writing assignments tohelp students clarify their interests and begin developing application materials for graduateschool; (4) individual and small-group outreach activities to encourage broader participation inSTEM (science, technology, engineering and math); and (5) interdisciplinary networking eventswith undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty from across campus.Students completed pre- and post-experience surveys about their background, expectations, andexperiences. The survey results suggest that the 10-week experience had a significant impact onstudents’ interest in pursuing graduate study. For instance, while 68% of the students initiallyindicated that they planned to pursue graduate or professional studies, at the conclusion of the10-week program 92% of the students reported that they planned to attend graduate orprofessional school and students reported an increased understanding of the graduate schoolapplication process. Students also reported that participating in the summer program increasedtheir knowledge of both the process and practice of research in their discipline, and improvedtheir ability to write a concise research abstract and to prepare a research poster presentation.Analyzing data from student surveys and assignments offers lessons learned about recruiting andpreparing Engineering undergraduates for graduate school. In addition, we offer practicalsuggestions and insights for developing and administering a large, undergraduate researchprogram spanning multiple Engineering disciplines, and for coordinating activities betweenmultiple campus research programs to encourage interdisciplinary interactions.

Luchini-Colbry, K., & Steinke Wawrzynski, K., & Mangiavellano, R., & McCune, E. (2012, June), Guiding Them to Graduate School: Professional Development for Undergraduates Participating in Engineering Research Programs Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21442

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