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Is A Successful Research Laboratory Possible With Undergraduate Students Alone?

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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

New Faculty Issues and Concerns

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.818.1 - 9.818.11



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Paper Authors

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Juan Lopez

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Roger Gonzalez

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Paul Leiffer

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

Is a successful r esear ch labor ator y possible with under gr aduate students alone?

Roger V. Gonzalez, J uan Lopez, and Paul Leiffer LeTour neau Univer sity


Developing a successful research laboratory with qualified graduate students is a demanding venture. Trying to accomplish this with undergraduate students alone, given the demanding academic load and steep research learning curve is daunting. Nevertheless, during the past eight years the Biomedical Engineering Faculty at LeTourneau University have managed to develop a successful undergraduate research program and secure multiple external funding sources. Laboratory research has been intricately woven into the undergraduate engineering curriculum and is a key component of the teaching-learning engineering environment. The objective is to use undergraduate research to teach engineering skills such as research methodology, design, development, manufacturability, testing, and implementation. These skills are necessary for successful engineers to be proficient, regardless of specialization. Primarily, the success of our research utilizing only undergraduate students has come from the project management methodology implemented to stimulate success both in the research endeavors and for the students who participate. The research process involves interdisciplinary undergraduate research teams with a minimum of one-year student participation. The research team structure is based on a business model of modular components. Students and professors are both an integral part of this modular structure, with students involved at various levels, including management. Each component is treated as an individual hierarchy with its own set of goals, yet responsible to the overall management structure and research objectives. The challenges that are naturally inherent to using only undergraduate students for research are addressed in this paper via a description of both the team structure and multi-level student participation. Dissemination of results is a critical portion of the research process, with requirements for external publication an integral part of the objectives set for the team. Success of our undergraduate research model has been evident not only by securing external funding but also from external publications, achieved educational outcomes, high student satisfaction, and a considerable level of undergraduate students pursuing graduate engineering education.


Success as an engineering professor involves much more than effective classroom teaching. At a minimum, it involves effective interaction with students, pedagogy, and university service. Yet at most institutions, this is not enough. Scholarly work in the form of research is critically evaluated as a means of assessing a professor’s effectiveness. The traditional method has always been to recruit graduate students as research assistants to perform the research as part of their larger graduate educational objectives. The dilemma occurs when a professor is asked to develop

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

Lopez, J., & Gonzalez, R., & Leiffer, P. (2004, June), Is A Successful Research Laboratory Possible With Undergraduate Students Alone? Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12981

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