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Successful Undergraduate Research Experiences in Engineering: Student, Faculty, and Industrial Perspectives

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


John R. Reisel University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

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Dr. John R. Reisel is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). He serves as associate director of the Center for Alternative Fuels and co-director of the Energy Conversion Efficiency Lab. In addition to research into engineering education, his efforts focus on combustion and energy utilization. Dr. Reisel was a 2005 recipient of the UWM Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, a 2000 recipient of the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Teaching Award, and a 1998 recipient of the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. Dr. Reisel received his B.M.E. degree from Villanova University in 1989, his M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1994.

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Cindy M Walker University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

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Cindy Walker is the Associate Dean of Research and Engaged Scholarship and the Director of the Consulting Office for Research and Evaluation (CORE) in the School of Education. She is also a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology.
Walker conducts research in the area of testing and measurement. She has worked with the Certification and Skills Assessment team at Microsoft Corporation, the Office of the Superintendent of Instruction in the state of Washington, the Division of Research and Assessment at Milwaukee Public School District, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the WI Department of Public Instruction, the National Science Foundation, Junior Achievement of Southeastern WI, the Center for Self-Sufficiency, Appleton Public Library, and many local school districts.
Walker received an M.S. in mathematics education from Illinois State University and a Ph.D. in quantitative research methodologies from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign.

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Luciana Cancado University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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Dian Mitrayani University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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When ideas for improving the education and graduation rates of engineering students are presented, one practice often promoted is increasing the number of students performing undergraduate research. Often, the benefits achieved by high-achieving undergraduate students engaged in research activities are cited as evidence of the potential that undergraduate research offers all students. However, relatively little study has been devoted to the impact and benefits of research experiences on ordinary engineering students. Yet, in order to achieve broader participation in undergraduate research experiences, it is these students to whom undergraduate research opportunities need to be provided. Therefore, it is necessary to understand how these experiences can mesh with the career goals of these students, and how they can best meet the students’ expectations and needs.

The primary purpose of this NSF-sponsored work is to develop definitions of what constitutes a successful undergraduate research experience for a wide range of engineering students. Particular attention is devoted to students whose academic background and performance is solid, but not outstanding. For such students, some of the benefits seen in high-achieving students – such as increased likelihood of graduate school attendance – may not be appropriate measures of a successful experience. To develop the definitions, we have surveyed and interviewed students who have been engaged in undergraduate research experiences in engineering, faculty members who have supervised undergraduate students working on research projects, and industrial representatives who have employed recent engineering graduates. In this paper, we present the perspectives of these groups. With the perspectives of the three groups as input, the definitions of a successful undergraduate research experience for non-elite engineering students have been developed and are presented.

In addition to these definitions of a successful undergraduate research experience, the paper also presents insights from the faculty and students on how to make the experiences more beneficial for the students. Such information can help other faculty as they design research experiences for their own students.

Reisel, J. R., & Walker, C. M., & Cancado, L., & Mitrayani , D. (2016, June), Successful Undergraduate Research Experiences in Engineering: Student, Faculty, and Industrial Perspectives Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25959

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