CUREnet > What is a CURE?

What is a CURE?

In the first phase of development of CUREnet, a group of instructors, scientists, evaluators, and education researchers put forth a working definition of a CURE, which CUREnet continues to use. Specifically, a CURE is a project that engages whole classes of students in addressing a research question or problem that is of interest to the scientific community (see Auchincloss et al., 2014, for details).

Because CUREs are still relatively new in the undergraduate education landscape, there continues to be debate about what constitutes a CURE. Other terms have been used to describe learning experiences that similarly integrate research and instruction, including:

Key Features of a CURE

CUREs are distinctive as learning experiences, especially in comparison to traditional or inquiry courses, because:

  • CUREs offer opportunities for students to make discoveries that are of interest to stakeholders outside the classroom (e.g., the broader scientific community).
  • Students' work is iterative, meaning that students must trouble-shoot, problem-solve, and repeat aspects of their work for the research to progress.
  • CUREs offer opportunities for students to communicate their research results to those stakeholders.
  • Just like in a faculty member's research group, the research in a CURE progresses as students work. This means that new research questions and directions are generated each term and the CURE is unlikely to look the same from year to year.
  • Students may engage in a range of science practices such as collecting and analyzing data, building and defending arguments, and collaborating with one another and more experienced scientists. The work that students do in a CURE must build off and have the potential to contribute to a larger body of knowledge in the discipline.

CURE vs. Inquiry

Inquiry instruction involves many of the features of CUREs. Similar to CUREs, inquiry instruction involves students in asking and answering scientific questions, analyzing relevant data, and making and defending arguments. Both forms of instruction aim to develop students' scientific expertise, especially their ability to engage in scientific practices. In inquiry courses, students' work may be novel, but a stakeholder outside the classroom is unlikely to be interested in the results. CUREs are distinctive in offering students opportunities to make discoveries that are of interest to stakeholders outside the classroom. CURE students have been coauthors on papers, have contributed results to research repositories, and have generated data used as preliminary results in grant proposals (see the resources below for details and examples). Because CUREs are usually integrated with a faculty member's ongoing research, CUREs are also limited in offering students complete freedom to ask and answer their own questions, as students may be able to do in an inquiry project.


  • Gentile et al. (2017). Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM. Link
  • Dolan (2017). Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences: Current knowledge and future directions Link
  • Auchincloss et al. (2014). Assessment of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences: A Meeting Report. Link