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Structure of Professional Components for a Multidisciplinary REU Program

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Endeavors: Engineering and Liberal Arts

Tagged Divisions

Multidisciplinary Engineering and Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Katie Evans Louisiana Tech University

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Dr. Katie Evans is the Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives, the Entergy Corp LP&L/NOPSI #3 & #4 Professor of Mathematics, the Academic Director of Mathematics and Statistics and Online programs, and the Director of the Integrated STEM Education Research Center (ISERC). She earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics and M.S. in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Her research interests include distributed parameter control modeling and simulation, dynamic modeling of physical systems, and STEM education. She has published 20 peer-reviewed publications in these areas, and her research has been funded by the NSF, AFRL, and LA-BOR. She also serves as an Associate Editor for the American Control Conference and the Conference on Decision and Control, two premier conferences in the controls community. She is a member of the IEEE, SIAM, and ASEE.

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Kirk St.Amant Louisiana Tech University

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Kirk St.Amant is a Professor and Eunice C. Williamson Endowed Chair in Technical Communication at Louisiana Tech University (USA) where he is also a Research Faculty member with Tech’s Center for Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation Science (CBERS). He researches how cognition affects usability and the design of technology with a focus on international health and medical contexts and international online education. Kirk is also an Adjunct Professor of International Health and Medical Communication with the University of Limerick (Ireland) and a Guest Professor of Usability Studies at Southeast University (China).

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The professionalism of engineering students is central to professional success. Achieving this objective requires integrating training across hard science skills and softer communication and management acumen to prepare students for the workplace. The challenge becomes providing effective professional development experiences within engineering programs. An interdisciplinary approach to summer engineering education programs – such as Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs) – can address such factors. This paper presents a pilot study that assesses how an interdisciplinary summer REU program provided STEM students with professional development training as they also enhanced their knowledge of research practices in biomedical engineering.

This paper describes an REU program funded by the National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) program, Track-2 Focused EPSCoR Collaborations (FEC) under the grant _____. The project involves _____ collaborating institutions:_____. The _____ REU is a parallel summer program for undergraduate students, and its primary focuses is providing STEM undergraduate students with the opportunities to collaborate on brain science research related to neuronal networks in epilepsy and memory.

A secondary focus involved providing students with different professional development opportunities via workshops that focus on soft skills in engineering (e.g., writing, usability testing, behavioral research). These topics were addressed via dedicated 2-3 hour workshops scheduled throughout the REU. For these workshops, instructors from other disciplines (e.g., technical writing and psychology) provided focused instruction in a soft-skill area (e.g., resume writing, fundamentals of usability testing). These sessions involved applying concepts students learned in lab-based REU activities as the subject for teaching different soft skills. The objective was to provide students with an integrated educational experience to help them understand how such factors co-exist in engineering as a profession. This paper reports a pilot study involving data collected from participants in the first two summer cohorts of the _____ REU (10 participants total). The question guiding this project is: To what extent do STEM students participating in integrated summer REU program believe this approach provided them with effective training in hard and soft skills essential to contributing in the epilepsy research space? Two sub-questions the pilot examine are, based on student perceptions, 1) What aspects of this integrated program were effective and should be continued for future REU programs? and 2) What aspects of this integrated program were ineffective and need revision within the context of this program?

The pilot study used questionnaires and interviews to collect data on the perceptions former REU students had of this integrated approach to REUs. The authors will use this data to suggest how this topic might be explored via future research and discuss the implications this of this pilot study for using integrated instructional approaches to provide STEM students with professional development training.

Evans, K., & St.Amant, K. (2019, June), Structure of Professional Components for a Multidisciplinary REU Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33287

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