June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.685.1 - 14.685.16
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. https://peer.asee.org/5260
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