In this paper we present an evaluation and lessons learned from a joint Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program focused on energy and sustainability topics within a Materials Science and Engineering program at a public university. This program brought eleven undergraduate science and engineering students with diverse educational and institutional backgrounds and four local middle and high school teachers on campus for an 8-week research experience working in established lab groups at the university.
Using the Qualtrics online survey software, we conducted pre-experience and post-experience surveys of the participants to assess the effects of participating in this summer research program. At the beginning of the summer, all participants provided their definition of technical research and described what they hoped to get out of their research experience, and the undergraduate students described their future career and educational plans. At the conclusion of the summer, a post-experience survey presented participants’ with their answers from the beginning of the summer and asked them to reflect on how their understanding of research and future plans involving research changed over the course of the summer experience.
Many participants evolved a new understanding of research as a result of participating in the summer experience. In particular, they better recognized the collaborative nature of research and the challenges that can arise as part of the process of doing research. Participants acquired both technical and professional skills that they found useful, such as learning new programming languages, becoming proficient at using new pieces of equipment, reviewing technical literature, and improving presentation and communication skills. Undergraduates benefited from developing new relationships with their peers, while the teacher participants benefited from developing relationships with faculty and staff at the university. While most of the participants felt that they were better prepared for future studies or employment, they did not feel like the summer research experience had a significant impact on their future career or degree plans. Finally, while almost all of the participants described their summer research experience as positive, areas for improvement included better planning and access to mentors, as well as more structured activities for the teachers to adapt their research activities for the classroom.
© 2017, American Society for Engineering Education, Proceedings of ASEE Annual Conference, Columbus, Ohio.
Salzman, Noah and Ubic, Rick. (2017). "Development and Assessment of a Combined REU/RET Program in Materials Science". 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, 18652-1 - 18652-10.