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Involving Undergraduate And High School Students In Research: Opportunities, Challenges, And Rewards

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Lighting the Fire: REU

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.817.1 - 9.817.9

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Paper Authors

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Shashi Nambisan

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

Session Number: 3215 (Civil Engr Division)

Involving Undergraduate and High School Students in Research: Opportunities, Challenges, and Rewards Shashi S. Nambisan, Ph.D, P.E. Professor of Civil Engineering University of Nevada, Las Vegas 4505 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas NV 89154-4015 Tel: (702) 895-1357, Fax: (702) 895-4401, E-mail:

Abstract Historically student involvement in research at Universities and Colleges has primarily revolved around those in graduate programs. However, the NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program and ABET’s evaluation criteria regarding undergraduate participation in research are examples of efforts and initiatives over the last decade to target and include undergraduate students in research efforts. Going one step further would be including high school students in such efforts. This paper summarizes efforts, experiences, and initiatives over the last six years at the UNLV Transportation Research Center to include undergraduate and high school students in research projects and lessons learned from the same – including examples of potential benefits and concerns. The paper also addresses innovative strategies and opportunities to fund high school students participating in research activities during the summer break.

Introduction For well over the last half a century, the primary focus of student involvement in engineering and computer science research programs has been at the graduate level. The reasons for primarily targeting graduate students for inclusion in research programs and activities include the following: Programmatic emphasis on education and research at the graduate level as opposed to t the undergraduate level. A need for specific background, skills, and knowledge (e.g., successful completion of a certain set of courses or undergraduate degree). Perceptions or expectations regarding greater dedication, drive, and motivation among graduate students (when compared to those of undergraduates). Perceived levels of greater maturity and sense of responsibility of graduate students. Limitations posed by available or targeted resources (e.g., funding, space, equipment, etc.).

Some of the aforementioned reasons or “constraints” can be addressed or remedied through creative programming or by broader thinking. Based on the objectives and context of a research program, others can be overcome - although this might require significant changes in mindset, policies, and practices. With the current practices, in certain other settings and contexts it may be more difficult to overcome some of these concerns. Thus, there is a pressing need now to

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education"

Nambisan, S. (2004, June), Involving Undergraduate And High School Students In Research: Opportunities, Challenges, And Rewards Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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