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The Influence of Student-Faculty Interactions on Post-Graduation Intentions in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program: A Case Study

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Faculty: Interactions, Influences and Issues

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1226.1 - 24.1226.16



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Paper Authors


Lisa Massi University of Central Florida

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Dr. Lisa Massi is the Director of Operations Analysis for Accreditation, Assessment, & Data Administration in the College of Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Central Florida. She is Co-PI of a NSF-funded S-STEM program and program evaluator for an NSF-funded REU program. Her research interests include factors that impact student persistence and career development in the STEM fields.

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Caitlyn R. McKinzie University of Central Florida

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Caitlyn McKinzie is a Graduate Assistant in the College of Engineering & Computer Science for the Young Entrepreneur and Scholar (YES) program at the University of Central Florida. She is currently earning her Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling and certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her research interests include eating disorders, addictions, and implementing mindfulness techniques.

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Andre J Gesquiere University of Central Florida

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Andre J. Gesquiere is an Associate Professor at University of Central Florida, where he holds a position in the NanoScience Technology Center, with joint appointments in the Department of Chemistry, the Materials Science and Engineering program, and The College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL). He obtained his Ph.D. in 2001 in the group of Frans De Schryver at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K. U. Leuven), Belgium, where he worked on the characterization of organic supramolecular systems. After a post-doctoral stay in the group of E. W. Meijer in 2002 at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), The Netherlands, he moved to the group of Paul Barbara at the University of Texas at Austin as a postdoctoral researcher, where he worked on the photophysical properties of single conjugated polymer molecules embedded in functioning devices. After his postdoctoral stay at the University of Texas at Austin he moved to the University of Central Florida in 2005. His current research program is focused on the imaging and spectroscopy of nanomaterials with applications in energy conversion devices and biophotonics. He is an NSF CAREER awardee, and current PI of an NSF REU site (2011-2013).

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Sudipta Seal University of Central Florida

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Director: Advanced Materials Processing Analysis Center, NanoScience Technology Center
Professor: Materials Science and Engineering, and College of Medicine
University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fl

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The Influence of Student-Faculty Interactions on Post- Graduation Intentions in an Undergraduate Research Program: A Case StudyUsing a case-study approach, this research study examined how the variability of quality instudent-faculty interactions during a summer research program for undergraduates at a publicuniversity influenced students’ graduate school intentions. Three student-generated artifacts andone-faculty generated artifact were used to collect data for the study. Eleven students (seven menand four women) and nine faculty members participated in this summer program. Socialcognitive theory provided the framework to aggregate the data into meaningful units. Thepatterns emerging from the data were organized within three participant behavioral categoriesdescribed below. Over half the students (six students) reported overall positive interactions with their mentor(s)and reinforced intentions or motivation to continue on to graduate school (first category). In thiscategory, two students (out of the six) reported dissatisfaction with some aspect of the mentoringprocess (that responsibilities and expectations were not clearly presented and /or adequatefeedback was not received on progress). However, in both cases, the students reported beingprovided with leeway to work independently. This finding suggests that being able to figure outsituations on their own gave them the self-confidence needed to complete the tasks and handleambiguity, without over-reliance on mentor feedback. Three students reported overall positiveinteractions with their mentor(s), but remained undecided about their graduate school intentions(second category). Two students in this category did not agree that the training and assignmentswere effective and relevant to their career goals. These two students reported that their dream jobwas to “build” or “manufacture” something. This finding suggests that these students did not seeresearch as a direct path to their career intentions. The remaining two students (who were bothwomen) reported overall negative interactions with their mentor(s) related to organization of thetasks and mentor support (third category). One student indicated no graduate school intentionsafter participation in the program (but had intentions prior), whereas the other student reportedreinforced graduate school intentions. In the first case, the female student and a male student hadbeen placed with the same mentor. Whereas the female student had a negative experience andoutcome, the male student had a positive experience and outcome. It is possible that the mentorand/or graduate student mentors may have had pre-conceived, gender-based expectations. Thesecond student was the only student matched to her mentor. This student purposefully chose aresearch area out of her comfort zone to explore. Since the research experience met thisexpectation, it may have contributed to the positive outcome, namely, reinforcement of graduateschool intentions. The results of our study can inform practitioners how to better structure andtailor the research experience to meet the psychosocial needs of the undergraduate student.

Massi, L., & McKinzie, C. R., & Gesquiere, A. J., & Seal, S. (2014, June), The Influence of Student-Faculty Interactions on Post-Graduation Intentions in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program: A Case Study Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23159

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