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The Development of a Virtual Research Preparation and Professional Development Program

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Hybrid and Online Learning

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Tiffany A Mathews Penn State University

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Dr. Tiffany Mathews is the Co-Program Director for Education and Outreach for Penn State’s MRSEC: Center for Nanoscale Science. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Penn State and conducted postdoctoral research at Wake Forest’s School of Medicine. In 2007, she joined the faculty at Wayne State University in the Department of Chemistry focusing on using analytical techniques to probe the brain. Since coming back to Penn State in 2013, she has transition on developing programs and efforts that help students succeed both in and outside the classroom. Her focus with the Penn State MRSEC is to develop and offer professional development opportunities to MRSEC grad students and postdocs, while supporting summer programming of PREM students.

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Kirstin Purdy Drew Pennsylvania State University

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Kirstin Purdy Drew is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Physics at Penn State University.

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Kristin Ann Dreyer Center for Nanoscale Science (an NSF funded MRSEC)

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Kristin Dreyer is the Program Director for Education & Outreach for the Center for Nanoscale Science, as NSF funded Materials Research Science & Engineering Center (MRSEC). She earned her B.S. in Physics and her B.S. in Secondary Education from Penn State and taught physics and mathematics at the secondary and post-secondary level for many years. While raising a family, Kristin continued to develop and implement informal science education summer programs. At the Penn State MRSEC, Kristin currently manages the strategic development and implementation of the grant's education and outreach portfolio, engaging faculty and student researchers in all programs and initiatives.

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The development of a virtual research preparation and professional development program

In response to Covid-19, the Penn State Physics Department and the Center for Nanoscale Science, a National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (NSF-MRSEC), made a rapid pivot of our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program from an in-person 10-week research experience to a virtual research preparation and professional development program which was designed to prepare science and engineering undergraduate and master’s students for entrance into the workforce or their continuation in a graduate program. The overarching goal of this virtual experience was to develop and refine professional skills that are often not explicitly taught in science and engineering classes. The program had three distinct areas: (1) Career Preparation (Professional Development & Career Exploration), which provided students with tools to “build their brand” and exposed them to the wide range of career paths one can pursue with a science or engineering degree; (2) Scientific Research Skills, which comprised academic seminars, a scientific journal club, and hands-on educational workshops; and (3) Community Impact and Involvement, where students developed a scientific outreach product. Here we describe the structure and content of the program, the deliverables created, and lessons learned from this unique summer experience.

Mathews, T. A., & Drew, K. P., & Dreyer, K. A. (2021, July), The Development of a Virtual Research Preparation and Professional Development Program Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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