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Preliminary Evaluation of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program: A Methodology for Examining Student Outcomes

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Novel Student Experiences in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1243.1 - 26.1243.26



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Paper Authors


D. Jake Follmer The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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D. Jake Follmer is a doctoral candidate in educational psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. His interests are in issues related to learning, assessment, and program evaluation.

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Sarah E. Zappe The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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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 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Esther Gomez is an assistant professor in the Departments of Chemical 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 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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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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Preliminary Evaluation of a Chemical Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program: A Methodology for Examining Student OutcomesAbstractIntensive programs that provide experiences for undergraduate students to engage in researchhave demonstrated a number of benefits, including: increases in students’ research-basedexperiences, facility in conducting individual research projects, ability to collaborate effectivelyin research-based settings, and ability to communicate and present research and research-basedfindings1-3. This study presents an initial evaluation, following Year 1, of a National ScienceFoundation sponsored Chemical Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)program conducted at a large Mid-Atlantic research university which focused on the integrationof biology and materials.Evaluation of the REU program relied upon an extensive assessment methodology using pre- andpost-surveys as well as in-depth student and faculty interviews. An important aspect of the REUcentered on the use of student pairings as a means of facilitating collaborative- and research-based skills. Both broad and specific research- and scientific-based experiential developmentwere assessed4. Specific success metrics, including publications in both academic andundergraduate research journals, presentations at symposia and research conferences, and awardsor scholarships attained as a result of participating in research related to the REU were alsoassessed. Participants’ ratings of specific research experiences (e.g., their working relationshipwith their research mentor) and initial indication of graduate school outcomes were alsoobtained.Participants (n = 14; 29% female; 43% underrepresented minority status) demonstratedsignificant gains after completing the REU program. Comparisons of pre- and post-surveyresponses indicated significant increases in broad research experiences (p < .01) as well as inspecific research- and scientific-based experiences in several key areas (p < .05). These areasincluded significant gains in conceptualizing research and addressing data-based researchquestions, communicating research or scientific results, and understanding research as a process.Participants indicated openness to collaborating with other students as well as a likelihood ofpursuing a graduate degree after completing the REU program. Student ratings of specificresearch experiences indicated overall satisfaction with the program and strong ratings of advicegiven by mentors regarding research and graduate school. Indicators of program successevidenced involvement in presenting a talk or poster to other students/faculty (n =11), presentinga talk or poster at a research conference (n = 8), publishing an article in either an academicjournal (n = 5) or undergraduate research journal (n =5), and winning an award or scholarshipbased on research completed during the REU (n = 1).In-depth interviews provided an assessment of the experiences of both REU participants andmentoring faculty, focusing on motivations for participating in the REU, project-basedexperiences, changes in participants’ skill levels, impact of the REU on conceptualizations ofand plans for research, assessment of the workshops administered and social outings held, andrecommendations for improvement of the REU. Qualitative analysis of interview data revealedan improved understanding of the nature of research and the research process. Qualitativeanalysis also indicated effectiveness of the use of student pairing in facilitating collaborationwith research-based activities. Limitations, recommendations for improvement of the REU, andimplications for chemical engineering education are discussed.Preference: Regular SessionWord Count: 495Bibliography1. Bielefeldt, A. R. 2012. Student learning outcomes from an environmental engineering research program.American Society for Engineering Education, 2012.2. Lopatto, D. 2007. Undergraduate research experiences support science career decisions and active learning. CBELife Sciences Education, 6, 297-306.3. Kardash, C. M. 2000. Evaluation of an undergraduate research experience: Perceptions of undergraduate internsand their faculty mentors. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 191-201.4. URSSA, Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment. 2009. Ethnography & Evaluation Research,University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO.

Follmer, D. J., & Zappe, S. E., & Gomez, E. W., & Kumar, M. (2015, June), Preliminary Evaluation of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program: A Methodology for Examining Student Outcomes Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24580

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015