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Implementation And Assessment Of An Interdisciplinary Nsf/Reu Site On Watershed Sciences

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Use of Summer Research Programs in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.701.1 - 13.701.15



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Paper Authors


Vinod Lohani Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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VINOD K. LOHANI is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education and an adjunct faculty in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). He received a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1995. His areas of teaching and research include engineering education, international collaboration and hydrology & water resources.

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Tamim Younos Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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TAMIM YOUNOS is a research professor in the Geography Department and also serves as an associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center at Virginia Tech. He earned a PhD in environmental engineering from Univ. of Tokyo. His major areas of research and teaching are in watershed assessment and sustainable water and energy systems.

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

Implementation and Assessment of an Interdisciplinary NSF/Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site on Watershed Sciences and Engineering

Abstract Authors’ experiences of implementing a successful NSF/REU site (2007-10) on watershed sciences and engineering at Virginia Tech, a large research university, are discussed. Research mentors representing civil engineering, environmental engineering, geology, biology, crop and environmental sciences, water resources, environmental chemistry, engineering education, and academic assessment disciplines made a significant contribution in the success of the site. The site received funding in authors’ 3rd attempt. A summary of reviewers’ comments during unsuccessful attempts and authors’ proposal modifications are presented to demonstrate strategies that led to successful funding of the site. The goal of the site is to provide a diverse group of undergraduate students a stimulating interdisciplinary environment, where critical research questions within watershed sciences and engineering are addressed and their analytical skills and creativity as future scientists and engineers are nourished. To achieve this goal, eight highly qualified students (five female, three male), hereafter referred to as REU fellows, were recruited in summer 2007. Fellows came from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds including chemistry, ecology, geology, environmental engineering and electrical engineering. Fellows’ 10-week long research projects included: ecological stoichiometry, microbial source tracking, watershed instrumentation, cycling of metals in aquatic environments, drinking water chemistry, and water-energy nexus. Fellows also attended weekly forums and discussion meetings conducted by VT experts and attended a national conference that was held on Virginia Tech campus. Fellows made periodic presentations of their research, prepared a final research report, and also submitted a reflection essay about their experiences. Four fellows returned to Virginia Tech late fall and presented their research papers at a regional water research conference. Assessment of NSF/REU site outcomes was conducted with the help of two external experts in education research and academic assessment. Assessment tools included online /in-class surveys, pre- and post test questions, and a focus group interview. This article includes a brief description of program assessment tools, a summary of assessment results and recommendations, and some excerpts of self reflections of REU fellows.

1. Introduction

One of the recommendations made in the 2005 report of the National Academy of Engineering Educating the Engineer of 2020 is[1]: Engineering schools introduce interdisciplinary learning in the undergraduate environment, rather than having it as an exclusive feature of the graduate program. The objective of this article is to introduce successful (and unsuccessful) proposal preparation for funding an interdisciplinary undergraduate research site that has goal to meet the recommendations made such as in the NAE publication listed above. Our

Lohani, V., & Younos, T. (2008, June), Implementation And Assessment Of An Interdisciplinary Nsf/Reu Site On Watershed Sciences Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3837

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