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The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Principal Investigators (PI) Guide: Development of a Best Practices Website

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Computing Research

Tagged Division

Computing and Information Technology

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Mariangely Iglesias Pena Iowa State University

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Mariangely Iglesias Pena is an MS student in Human Computer Interaction at Iowa State University’s Virtual Reality Applications Center. Her background is in industrial design, which drives her interest in interactive and web design.

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Stephen B. Gilbert Iowa State University

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Stephen B. Gilbert received a BSE from Princeton in 1992 and PhD from MIT in 1997. He has worked in commercial software development and run his own company. He is currently an assistant professor in the Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering department at Iowa State University, as well as Associate Director of ISU's Virtual Reality Application Center and its Graduate Program in Human Computer Interaction. His research focuses on technology to advance cognition, including interface design, intelligent tutoring systems, and cognitive engineering.

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Jamie Payton Temple University

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Dr. Jamie Payton is an Associate Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Temple University. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science at Washington University in St. Louis in 2006. Her research interests include crowdsensing, smart and connected health, and software engineering for pervasive computing environments. Dr. Payton is also committed to broadening participation in computing and advancing computer science education. She is the Director of the STARS Computing Corps, an NSF-funded alliance of 53 colleges and universities that aims to broaden participation in computing and the co-founder of the International Conference for Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT).

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With the help of the National Science Foundation (NSF), many Principal Investigators (PIs) have been able to mentor undergraduates through Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site awards. These REU sites are critical to the development of future graduate students, but can be challenging to run due to several required skills outside the scope of most faculty members' expertise, e.g., recruiting applicants, navigating the logistics of housing visiting undergraduate students, and tracking student outcomes after their REU experiences.

In recent years, REU PIs in NSF's Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Directorate have come together through PI meetings to share best practices for running a successful REU site. While PIs inevitably take different approaches to running their sites based on their research projects, there is still a need to provide new PIs with guidance on the different aspects of an REU site such as identifying resources that can assist in recruiting women and underrepresented minority applicants, providing training for graduate students acting as mentors, and strategies for keeping a mentoring connection to undergraduate researchers after they return to their home institutions. Currently, REU site preparation and orientation for new PIs is a face-to-face process that requires careful planning and significant travel costs. The REU PI Guide, a set of web-based resources, was developed to share best practices of experienced PIs and build capacity within the REU PI community in a more scalable and cost-effective way. The REU PI Guide allows PIs to look up advice and guidance when needed and share their own best practices.

This paper describes our approach to designing the REU PI Guide. The Guide is a database of documents, examples, and overviews of the different aspects of running an REU site. The Guide was developed by assessing new PIs' needs at an NSF workshop for new PIs, gathering existing resources from experienced PIs, creating and refining a website, and evaluation with new PIs. The website’s content and design will be refined through on-going feedback from PIs and other REU site stakeholders. This site has the potential broader impact to share best practices with REU PIs outside the CISE directorate and significantly ease the process of engaging future scientists via REU sites.

Iglesias Pena, M., & Gilbert, S. B., & Payton, J. (2018, June), The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Principal Investigators (PI) Guide: Development of a Best Practices Website Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31121

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