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The Undergraduate Research Advantage: A Split Perspective

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Lighting the Fire: REU

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1299.1 - 9.1299.17

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Paper Authors

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George F. List

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Stacy Eisenman

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3215

The Undergraduate Research Advantage: The Split Perspective

Stacy Eisenman Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Maryland


George List Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Abstract Undergraduate Research Projects (URP’s) are unique opportunities. They can provide students with wonderful learning experiences and faculty with opportunities to mentor bright, young people. This paper provides two authors’ descriptions of what can be done to promote successful experiences, ones that benefit both the student and the faculty member. Through their experiences, or what they have learned from their colleagues, this paper offers a qualitative look at how a URP might best be structured. An important element is joint development of the experience, by the faculty member and the student. The goals and objectives of both parties have to be taken into account. The faculty member may need help with a research project while the student may want a foretaste of graduate school or just a chance to earn money. Ideas about how to incorporate leadership, responsibility, independence, networking and growth into a URP are also presented.

1.0 Introduction Undergraduate research programs (URP) have become a commonplace fixture on most if not all engineering college campuses [7]. At research-based institutions, students can work with faculty and graduate students on sponsored and unsponsored projects [9]. They can also take courses that focus on research-oriented experiences [15]. At predominantly undergraduate educational institutions, they can get involved in one-on-one mentoring with a faculty member [3] and take research-oriented classes [15]. In all these cases, research has been “added” to the undergraduate curriculum and the sense is that these experiences are valuable to both faculty and students [15].

From the perspective of many academics, URP experiences give undergraduates a chance to participate in discovery-based education. Students can see if a research-based career is of interest and if a graduate school is something to pursue. Students can be integrated into a research project and given duties and responsibilities that otherwise might be given to a graduate student; and through this experience, they can assist in advancing the frontier of knowledge. While this description of a URP experience does not fit all cases, it typifies what this faculty member has observed and seems typical of what academics describe [13].

Given this sense of a URP, the authors see issues that should be addressed, especially from the perspective of the student, in devising a successful experience. These issues relate to developing

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

List, G. F., & Eisenman, S. (2004, June), The Undergraduate Research Advantage: A Split Perspective Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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