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UW GenOM Project: A Successful Undergraduate Research Program

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Build Diversity in Engineering Graduate Programs

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1659.1 - 22.1659.23



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Paper Authors


Allison Kang University of Washington

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Allison Kang has a background in Biochemistry and Public Health Genetics and is currently finishing up her Ph.D. in Science Education. Her dissertation research focuses on the impact that undergraduate research programs (URPs) have on ethnic minority students' scientific efficacy and how the programmatic elements of URPs impact student interest and experience in science and engineering.

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Lisa A. Peterson University of Washington

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Lisa Peterson received her B.A. in English in 1985, and her MS in Technical Communications in 2006. Since 2002, Ms. Peterson has directed the UW GenOM Project, an outreach program for underrepresented college-level students interested in genomics. This outreach effort is the first of its kind funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute and has become a national model. It includes research opportunities, travel scholarships, intensive mentoring and advising, academic training in the life sciences, seminars, and partnerships with other outreach programs that serve underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students. With a retention rate of over 90%, the UW GenOM Project is making a substantial difference in the numbers of underrepresented students who are pursuing advanced degrees in the sciences.

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Elena Maria Hernandez University of Washington

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UW GenOM Project: A Successful Undergraduate Research Program for Science and Engineering Undergraduates The overarching goal of the Genomics Outreach for Minorities (GenOM) Project is todevelop and sustain a comprehensive umbrella program to coordinate recruitment, retention, andtraining activities for groups that are currently significantly underrepresented in science andengineering fields, focusing on African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans,Alaskan Natives, Filipino Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Since 2003, thisprogram has focused on two major outcomes: increasing the number of underrepresentedminority students in the pipeline in STEM from underrepresented populations transitioning fromundergraduate to graduate studies, and retaining graduate students who are actively conductingresearch in STEM and assisting them in their transition to a career in their field. Researchers such as Gándara (2006) have found that effective educational interventionprograms for minority students include the following components, all of which are integral toGenOM: (a) intensive monitoring of participants, (b) an articulated program that reaches acrossgrade levels, (c) consistent messages to raise aspirations, (d) building group cohesion and a senseof membership in the school and the program, and (e) access to rigorous curriculum and supportto succeed in that curriculum. Also, undergraduate research has become common at mostresearch-intensive universities, connecting students with faculty mentors in research labs. Thismentorship has been shown to be a very powerful way to retain students in STEM fields asstudents learn that science is an intensely human enterprise comprised of learners and explorers. As an example, the Bioengineering department has 44% of current graduate students aswomen, and 10% are underrepresented minority. This is compared to 28% and 4.9%respectively in our entire College of Engineering. While Bioengineering is doing relatively well,the rest of our campus is still struggling to keep minority students in STEM fields. Of the 3,123STEM graduate students at the university in Winter Quarter 2009, only 148 (4.7%) wereunderrepresented minority, and only 60 of those (1.9%) were women. Of the 6,540 STEMundergraduates in the same time period, only 6.82% were underrepresented. Compared to thenumber of ethnic minorities in the population, this is significantly lower. At ASEE, we will present data to show the successful retention of ethnic minorities thatwe have had through our GenOM Project as well as program elements that have made the projectsuccessful. For example, the average retention rate nationwide for underrepresented studentsinterested in science and engineering from the freshman to senior years in college is only 32%.But, the retention rate for GenOM summer incoming freshmen students that continue in scienceand engineering is around 90%. Among 98 of our undergraduate students who have previouslyparticipated in undergraduate research, 93 (95%) of the students are currently retained in STEMfields. Also, from the 46 students who have earned their bachelor’s degrees after participating inundergraduate research, 43 (94%) are still in STEM fields. These statistics show that GenOMhas been highly successful at retaining ethnic minority students in science and engineering.

Kang, A., & Peterson, L. A., & Hernandez, E. M. (2011, June), UW GenOM Project: A Successful Undergraduate Research Program Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18892

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