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Lessons Learned from a Chemical Engineering REU: The Importance of Training Graduate Students Who are Supervising REU Students

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Developing Teaching and Mentoring Skills

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

22

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30760

Download Count

43

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Paper Authors

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Joseph C. Tise Pennsylvania State University

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Joseph Tise is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Psychology program at Penn State University. His research interests include self-regulated learning, measurement, and connecting educational research to practice.

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Kirsten Susan Hochstedt Pennsylvania State University

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Kirsten Hochstedt is a graduate assistant at Penn State Student Affairs Research and Assessment. She received her M.S. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in educational and psychological measurement at Penn State and is currently a doctoral candidate in the same program. The primary focus of her research concerns assessing the response structure of test scores using item response theory methodology.

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Sarah E. Zappe Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Sarah Zappe is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She holds a doctoral degree in educational psychology emphasizing applied measurement and testing. In her position, Sarah is responsible for developing instructional support programs for faculty, providing evaluation support for educational proposals and projects, and working with faculty to publish educational research. Her research interests primarily involve creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship education.

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Esther W. Gomez Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Esther Gomez is an assistant professor in the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Gomez's research focuses on exploring how the interplay of chemical and mechanical signals regulates cell behavior and function and the progression of disease. She is also the Co-Director of a National Science Foundation sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates program focused on the Integration of Biology and Materials in Chemical Engineering.

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Manish Kumar

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Manish Kumar is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and a current co-Director of the Penn State REU on "Integration of Biology and Materials in Chemical Engineering". He obtained his PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and conducted postdoctoral research at the Harvard Medical School. He has 7 years of industrial research experience in environmental consulting and is dedicated to training young professionals.

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Abstract

Abstract Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs provide participants with valuable experience that supplements their traditional engineering course work. Prior research has shown that participants enjoy many benefits in both technical and professional skills, such as the ability to work independently and to work with a diverse group of individuals. Research has also shown that REUs can confirm and increase interest in STEM fields as a potential career path for participants (Russell, Hancock, & McCullough, 2007; Stanford, Rocheleau, Smith, & Mohan, 2015; Youssef et al., 2016).

While the literature abounds with papers evaluating the impact on student participants of various REU programs, less attention has been placed on the experiences of and impacts on the mentors with whom the students work. Although REU students are assigned to work with faculty members at the host university, they typically work most closely with graduate students who work in the faculty member’s laboratory. The purpose of the current study was two-fold: 1) to explore the relationship between REU student participants and their graduate student mentors and 2) to study the impact of the mentorship experience on the graduate student mentors. The specific research questions explored included the following: 1) How did participation as a mentor impact graduate students’ self-efficacy in research, leadership, or mentorship?; 2) Did working with an REU student increase the mentors’ perceived research productivity, teaching skills, or communication skills?; 3) What types of approaches did the graduate student mentors utilize to supervise and mentor the REU students?; and 4) How did undergraduate REU students and their mentors describe and characterize their relationship?

The research questions were explored using a mixed methods approach. REU students and graduate student mentors were asked to complete pre- and post-surveys, as well as participate in a brief interview at the end of the REU experience. Mentor pre- and post-surveys included measures of their interest in serving as a mentor, their previous experience as an REU student or mentor, their mentorship style, their confidence in their ability to mentor others, and their beliefs about the value of mentoring others. Interview questions further explored the approaches that mentors used as well as investigated how the relationship between the mentor and REU student was characterized.

Survey results showed that some graduate students felt that mentoring the REU students had benefited their own research, although mentoring also led to delays for some. The data also suggest some interesting dynamics between REU students and mentors. While most REU students had positive experiences with their mentors, a notable minority had negative experiences and suggestions for improving their mentoring experience. Namely, some REU students often felt underutilized or even burdensome to their mentors. Overall, some of the results indicate that graduate student mentors may lack the training and experience necessary to effectively mentor the REU students. Findings, suggestions for future research, and implications for other REU programs will be discussed in greater detail in the full paper.

Tise, J. C., & Hochstedt, K. S., & Zappe, S. E., & Gomez, E. W., & Kumar, M. (2018, June), Lessons Learned from a Chemical Engineering REU: The Importance of Training Graduate Students Who are Supervising REU Students Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30760

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