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Impact Of Integration Of Undergraduate Students In An Engineering Research Laboratory: A Case Study

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Contemporary Issues in CHE Education

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.685.1 - 14.685.16



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Paper Authors


Adam Ekenseair University of Texas, Austin

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Adam Ekenseair is a doctoral student in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in May 2005. Currently he is working in the laboratory of Dr. Nicholas Peppas on "A Fundamental Investigation of Non-Fickian Penetrant Transport in Glassy Polymers." Adam is a Department of Defense (NDSEG) Fellow and a National Science Foundation (NSF-GREP) Fellow. He is also active in the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, the American Physical Society, and the Materials Research Society. Adam has presented 5 papers at major conferences and has 1 refereed publication.

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Carolyn Bayer University of Texas, Austin


Margaret Phillips University of Texas, Austin

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Margaret A. Phillips is a doctoral student in Biomedical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Margaret graduated magna cum laude from Saint Louis University in 2006 where she received her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering. An NSF-IGERT fellow, she is working with Dr. Nicholas Peppas to develop carbohydrate-decorated hydrogels for oral protein delivery. She is currently serving a two year term as the National Student President of the Society For Biomaterials.

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

Impact of Integration of Undergraduate Students in an Engineering Research Laboratory: A Case Study


Participation in undergraduate research projects in engineering can result in lasting benefits for the education and careers of both the undergraduate students and their graduate student mentors and supervising professors. This conclusion is supported by the results of surveys and interviews with a selection of the 526 undergraduate students who have participated in undergraduate research projects in our laboratory over the past 30 years, as well as their graduate student mentors. In addition, analogous data from the chemical and biomedical engineering departments at our institution demonstrate the beneficial long-term impact of undergraduate research on an engineer’s career and pursuit of higher education. Furthermore, it is shown through both comprehensive data and specific examples that the research performed and the personal relationships developed have lasting benefits to the careers of the graduate mentors and the supervising professors.

Key elements to implementing a significant and successful undergraduate research program at the laboratory, department, and university level have been identified from statistical data and personal experiences. Additionally, the impact of the supporting infrastructure at the departmental and university levels on the success of undergraduate research programs was established. Specific methods for attracting, retaining, and enhancing excellent undergraduate researchers while maximizing their productivity are illustrated with this data.


Involving undergraduate researchers in engineering research has been a longstanding tradition and strength of the laboratory of Nicholas A. Peppas both at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and Purdue University. In this paper, some of the strengths and outcomes of the 33 year tradition are summarized within the broader context of undergraduate research at research- oriented higher education institutions where the Peppas laboratory has made its home.

Research-oriented higher education institutions, including The University of Texas at Austin, have two primary goals – to produce high quality research, and to produce educated graduates. Doctorate-granting universities, which award more than 20 doctoral degrees annually, are classified as research universities with very high or high research activity by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education1, based on research and development expenditures, the number of science and engineering research staff, and the number of doctoral degrees granted in specific fields of study. Historically, the conflict between baccalaureate studies and research activities arises from the German educational model of the 19th century, after which American research institutions were designed – research was the ultimate goal of the institution, while education remained a secondary activity. Undergraduate education was intentionally separated from the research activities of the university, and the recruitment and promotion of faculty is dependent primarily upon their research progress. Research institutions therefore have a large number of world renowned research professors, which presumably enhances the education of the

Ekenseair, A., & Bayer, C., & Phillips, M. (2009, June), Impact Of Integration Of Undergraduate Students In An Engineering Research Laboratory: A Case Study Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5260

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