Involving undergraduate students in primary research: examples and student perspectives

Friday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Presentation Part of Course-Based Research Projects


Christy Briles, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
It is recognized that participation in an undergraduate research program significantly improves a student's trajectory into a STEM career (Eagan et al., 2013). As an undergraduate I was given several opportunities to conduct primary research in the environmental sciences both in a class environment, but also independently under the guidance of professional scientists. These experiences opened my eyes to the power of the scientific method and put me on a path of becoming a scientist and providing the same opportunities for my students. In this presentation, the elements and structure of a course involving primary data collection and reporting that has allowed students to develop meaningful research projects and outcomes will be discussed. Examples will be drawn from a paleoenvironmental course taught at Monash University in Australia, involving 25-30 students, where the process of conducting scientific research, including collecting new data in the field, analyzing it in the laboratory, and writing a final research report, was the main learning outcome. In addition, at the University of Colorado Denver undergraduate students are currently involved in projects where they are developing and conducting their own multi-year research projects involving physical and human (specifically warfare and agriculture) factors influencing the legacy of northern Vietnam landscapes and using pollen to authenticate and geolocate honey samples in Colorado. The student's perspectives on the process of conducting their own research and on the value of these research opportunities will be presented. STEM talent is in high demand worldwide and giving students hands-on experience early on in their educational career will assure that US students are competitive nationally and internationally for STEM careers.

Reference: Eagan, K.M, Hurtado, S., Chang, M., Garcia, G.A., Herrera, F.A., Garibay, J.C. 2013. Making a Difference in Science Education: The Impact of Undergraduate Research Programs. American Education Research Journal. 50 (4): 683-713.