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Implementing and Assessing a Joint REU/RET Program in Materials Science

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 3

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Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Boise State University

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Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and IDoTeach, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation program. His work focuses on the transition from pre-college to university engineering programs, how exposure to engineering prior to matriculation affects the experiences of engineering students, and engineering in the K-12 classroom. He has worked as a high school science, mathematics, and engineering and technology teacher, as well as several years of electrical and mechanical engineering design experience as a practicing engineer. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College, his Master's of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Louis Nadelson Utah State University

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Louis S. Nadelson is an associate professor and director for the Center for the School of the Future in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education at Utah State University. He has a BS from Colorado State University, a BA from the Evergreen State College, a MEd from Western Washington University, and a PhD in educational psychology from UNLV. His scholarly interests include all areas of STEM teaching and learning, inservice and preservice teacher professional development, program evaluation, multidisciplinary research, and conceptual change. Nadelson uses his over 20 years of high school and college math, science, computer science, and engineering teaching to frame his research on STEM teaching and learning. Nadelson brings a unique perspective of research, bridging experience with practice and theory to explore a range of interests in STEM teaching and learning.

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Rick Ubic Boise State University

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Rick Ubic is an Associate Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Micron School of Materials Science, Director of the Boise State Center for Materials Characterization, and Director if the REU Site in Materials for Energy & Sustainability. He was previously director of undergraduate recruitment for the Materials Department at Queen Mary, University of London for six years and coordinator for the Science and Engineering Foundation Program (SEFP) for three years. His research interests are in structure-property relationships in functional ceramics, hybrid photovoltaics, and the structural evolution of nuclear graphite. He earned both his Bachelor of Science degree in Materials Science & Engineering and Master's degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1993 and 1994, respectively; his PhD from Sheffield University in the UK in 1998; and a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice from Queen Mary, University of London in 2002. He currently serves as Editor in Chief of Materials Research Bulletin.

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In this paper we describe a joint Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program focused on energy and sustainability topics within a Materials Science and Engineering program at a public university. This program brought ten undergraduate science and engineering students and five local middle and high school teachers on campus for an 8-week research experiences working with different lab groups. Given the relatively small number of participants, we chose qualitative interviews as our primary source of data for assessing the effectiveness of this program.

The participants identified numerous positive aspects of participating in the summer research program. Students appreciated the sense of community they developed with both the other participants in the research program and the other members of their lab groups. Although most of the participants did not report the summer research experience as having a strong influence on their decisions to pursue graduate school or careers involving research, they did report both being more confident in their ability to be successful as a researcher and appreciating the opportunity to learn more about the practice of engineering research in an academic setting.

The participants also provided several recommendations for improvement to the summer research program. For the students, these included more materials in advance and a more streamlined onboarding process to allow them to get up to speed on their projects more quickly, consistent access to their supervisors, and work that is intellectually challenging. Suggestion from the teacher participants for improvement mostly involved requests for more guidance on how to incorporate what they were learning in their research into lessons for their classrooms.

In the full paper, we will present a more detailed description of this program and successes and challenges encountered by the participants and organizers as a way of helping others considering implementing REU/RET programs or other summer research experiences to design and implement successful programs. We will also present how being involved in the program influenced the participating teachers’ leadership, perceptions of adoption educational innovations, and providing more opportunities to engage their students in authentic STEM research

Salzman, N., & Nadelson, L., & Ubic, R. (2016, June), Implementing and Assessing a Joint REU/RET Program in Materials Science Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25594

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