June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Immersive research experiences have been shown to significantly improve the research and communication abilities of students who participate in them, as well as increase the likelihood that these students will pursue higher education after the completion of their bachelor’s degrees. While Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs are widespread, the Cardiovascular Research: Engineering a Translational Experience (CREATE) REU program is unique in that it emphasizes the parallels between the creative process and research. Creativity, an attribute that most feel is important for aspiring engineers, is typically not emphasized in research programs or in the undergraduate curriculum. This study describes an initial evaluation of the first year of an NSF funded research experience for undergraduates (REU) in Biomedical Engineering, entitled Cardiovascular Research: Engineering a Translational Experience (CREATE). Cardiovascular research was chosen as the focus of this program, because its innovative technologies allow for a unique emphasis to be placed upon teaching the students and involved faculty about creativity and its alignment with the scientific method.
The assessment protocol used to evaluate this program included the collection of pre-survey, post-survey, and interview data from both the participating students and faculty. Both surveys contained items measuring students’ broad research experiences, specific-scientific skills, and creative role identity, expectation, and self-efficacy. The post-survey also included measures describing students’ future educational and career plans, preparedness to participate in research activities, production metrics during and post-REU, and satisfaction with the REU components.
Students (n=8) demonstrated significant gains in broad research experiences (p<.05) and distinct areas of specific-scientific skills (p<.05) and creative role identity (p<.05) post-REU. These more specific gains included increases in the students’ confidence in their ability to identify limitations of research methods and designs, prepare a scientific poster, and understand journal articles. Students also reported increases in the importance of creativity to their self-image and confidence that they can be creative in their coursework. Seven out of a total of eight participants who responded to the post-survey reported the intent to pursue graduate education post-REU, and the students rated their preparation to perform research related activities and overall satisfaction with the REU as both being very high. All eight students presented their research to students and faculty during the REU; one student presented their work at an academic conference during the REU. Responses by students also indicated that one student will go on to present their work from the REU at an academic conference, one will publish in an academic journal, and one will present again before faculty and students.
Of particular interest to the researchers, is the interview data collected pertaining to the creativity element of the REU. Themes found in the student responses indicate that the emphasis on creativity had a high impact on the way the students approach new ideas and work through problems encountered in research, think about creativity in engineering, and perceive themselves as being creative individuals. Faculty responses revealed that while the faculty approached mentorship of their students with the intent of inspiring creative work, they did not always feel that they were successful or know whether or not the students were receptive to their efforts and those of the REU coordinators. Further responses from the faculty indicate that this may be due to a lack of direct communication between the REU coordinators and the faculty about the students’ experiences with program activities throughout the course of the REU, and this factor is an area we seek to improve in future years. Other themes in the qualitative data relate to additional positive impacts of the REU on the students and other areas in which the program may be improved in the future.
Huffstickler, M., & Zappe, S. E., & Manning, K. B., & Slattery, M. J. (2017, June), Impact of a Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Research Program on Student and Faculty Perceptions of Creativity Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28456
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