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Research: It's Not Just for Faculty Anymore

Tomorrow's Research

Message Number: 
413

Students are more likely to go to graduate school if they have done undergraduate research. This is most true when undergraduate research is encouraged early in a student's career and where the research experience is not limited to honors students" (Abrash, et al., 1998)

Folks:

The posting below, by Lee Haugen, faculty development specialist, looks at resources you can use to engage more undergraduates in the research enterprise. It is taken from the Center for Teaching Excellence newsletter http://www.cte.iastate.edu/newsletter/ at Iowa Sate University. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: Faculty Couples

Tomorrow's Research

 

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RESEARCH: IT'S NOT JUST FOR FACULTY ANYMORE

Lee Haugen, Faculty Development Specialist lhaugen@iastate.edu

Teaching at Iowa State, Vol. 14 (4), April/May 2002

Center for Teaching Excellence,

Iowa State University

 

The CTE Faculty Forum on March 28 featured the LAS Master Teachers, who were selected this year because they involve undergraduate students in their research projects. Paul Canfield, professor of physics and astronomy; Jeffrey Prater, professor of music; Valerie Sheares, assistant professor of chemistry; and David Wallace, associate professor of English, described how their focus on undergraduate research has promoted more meaningful learning experiences for their students while helping them to carry out their research programs.

Undergraduate research programs are a quickly growing phenomenon in colleges and universities across the country. A search for "undergraduate research" on Google.com produces 156,000 entries. Most campus programs appear to have started as departmental initiatives in physical sciences, and the bulk of the programs are still oriented largely to disciplines such as physics, biology, botany, astronomy, chemistry, and engineering.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration sponsors the NASA Undergraduate Student Research Program, offering undergraduates from the United States mentored research experiences at NASA Centers during summer and fall. Applicants must be juniors or seniors majoring, or with substantial coursework, in engineering, mathematics, computer science, or the physical sciences. The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsors both the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program which makes possible "a number of opportunities for undergraduates to join research projects each summer" and a National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse which publishes manuscripts of student research projects.

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The experience is one that I highly recommend for students, as it gives them an opportunity to see that what is learned in a lab course is just the beginning. - Valerie Sheares

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Another venue for undergraduate student publication is the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, a national, fully reviewed, quarterly journal dedicated to the publication of undergraduate psychology student research . The Caltech Undergraduate Research Journal solicits science and engineering articles from undergraduate students anywhere. It also looks for artwork that relates "to the art and aesthetics of science or engineering," interpreted very broadly. Additionally, a number of institutions have campus journals to publish student research. One impressive example is the Journal of Undergraduate Research published by the University of Florida .

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Certainly, it's my job to provide some background and information based on my specialized disciplinary knowledge. But job #1 for me is NOT insuring that I reproduced as much of that information in my students as possible. Rather, my first priority is bringing disciplinary representations of knowledge into substantive contact and conflict with what my students bring to the classroom. - David Wallace

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One of the oldest and most respected university-wide programs is the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) at the University of Michigan . It began in 1989, enrolling only underrepresented minority students. Since 1992, however, it has been open to all first-year and sophomore students. A primary focus of this program has always been to improve the retention of minority and female students, particularly in science and engineering, although projects are available in most liberal arts departments. A key feature of the program is that it operates during the academic school year, rather than summer, and peer advisors help the undergraduate researchers adjust to unfamiliar expectations and learning opportunities.

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The experiences in research build students' resumes. Many get good grad assistantships when they go to graduate school because of their research experience. - Jeffrey Prater

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Some campus programs, such as CalTech's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) , are open to undergraduate students from across the country. The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) was founded in 1978. It promotes research by faculty and undergraduates in the natural and social sciences, mathematics, and engineering at predominantly undergraduate colleges and universities. Additionally, some of the campus programs provide small grants, laboratory space, and other administrative support for faculty who involve undergraduates in their research.

Why Involve Undergraduates in Research?

Modern society needs citizens who have developed investigative and analytical skills and can critically evaluate information. The National Science Foundation Strategic Plan (1994) "calls for support of activities which infuse education with the joy of discovery and an awareness of its connections to exploration through directed inquiry, careful observation, and analytical thinking for students at all levels. The integration of research and education holds the promise of enriching student learning while enhancing public understanding" (Norman L. Fortenberry, 1998, Integration of Research & Curriculum, Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly).

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It is an outstanding opportunity to gain insight into a field and to acquire a set of skills that cannot be gained in the classroom. No matter what career path the students choose, the critical thinking and creative problem solving skills that are gained are invaluable. - Valerie Sheares

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Colleges and universities need to retain students through graduation because of the huge investment they make in each student and because it is the right thing to do. A report on the UROP program at the University of Michigan by Nagda, et al. (1998), found that "when UROP participants are compared to nonparticipants, each race/ethnic group demonstrates a significant positive effect of participation on retention." Underrepresented minority participants had an attrition rate of 11.4 % compared to 23.5% for nonparticipants. White participants had an attrition rate of 3.2% versus 9.8% for nonparticipants (The Review of Higher Education, 22.1, p. 55 - 72).

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There are no graduate programs in music, so undergrads are the only ones I can turn to for help with research, and most can do work that's comparable to graduate students. - Jeffrey Prater

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"Students are more likely to go to graduate school if they have done undergraduate research. This is most true when undergraduate research is encouraged early in a student's career and where the research experience is not limited to honors students" (Abrash, et al., 1998), ). Furthermore, some graduate schools, such as the Geology Department at the University of Chicago, will not consider applicants who have not completed a senior research project (Hansen, Dialogue, ). Abrash, et al., (1998) also found that announcements for open faculty positions "reveal a nearly universal expectation of doing research with undergraduates along with excellence in teaching" (p. 2).

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I get to work with young people who are excited and I get to teach research with no thesis pressure. That means we can work on ideas that may or may not work out. Paul Canfield

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Involving undergraduate students in your research can energize you and renew your enthusiasm for teaching. Thor Hansen, in Dialogue, says that research-based teaching takes more time, but not much more. He describes how he used to prepare for lectures and the large amount of energy it took to deliver interesting lectures, leaving him drained and needing time to recover. But in research-based classes, he does less preparation, spends class time guiding the students, and stays after class to answer questions and help those students who stay to put in more research time. Far from needing to recover after class, he says that "when I return to my office, I am energized by the give and take with the students and the interesting leads they have developed. Rather than lose energy, I gain it" (p. 10).

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As a natural byproduct of this on-going collaboration, a number of undergraduate students and I have formed partnerships in which we further explored questions that are of interest to us. - David Wallace

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Is There Support for Undergrad Research at ISU?

Yes, there is. Undergraduate Research Assistantships are available through the URA office in Financial Aid , under "Special Job Opportunities." Students must be classified as juniors or seniors, demonstrate financial need, and maintain an ISU cumulative GPA of at least 3.25. Applications for both students and faculty for the 2002-2003 academic year were due by April 5, but this is a good time to think about projects for the following year. The Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program prepares participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. The Program for Women in Science and Engineering (PWSE) conducts a Summer Internship Program which matches students with faculty for hands-on research experience . The Honors program also works to connect faculty who are looking for undergraduates to work with.

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If I cannot explain to my student collaborators what the issues I want to investigate are, then I probably can't explain those issues to other academics who have different research specialties. My student collaborators also help to constantly remind me that my research on pedagogy must always include student perspectives as we discuss design and analysis issues. - David Wallace

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In the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Louisa Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Internships are available to CFCS juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or above who "want the challenge of conducting innovative and exciting research" and are "considering an advanced degree" . The Horticulture Department sponsors Undergraduate Research Opportunities and the Physics and Astronomy Department sponsors Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) with NSF and ISU funding . There may be undergraduate research programs in other colleges and departments at ISU, but they were not found on a search of the ISU Website.

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It's a symbiotic relationship. Students get a chance to participate at a research university and make the most of what a research institution has to offer. - Paul Canfield --------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------

Something that a large research university can provide its students, which is not readily available at smaller institutions, is access to the community of scholars involved in cutting-edge research. The Council on Undergraduate Research was founded in order to facilitate agreements between small schools and industry or among a cluster of small schools so that they could provide more research opportunities for students than any one school could. We have those opportunities and more on our own campus. Research experience can be part of every student's undergraduate experience.