Running Academic Year Pathways Research Experience Program (AY-PREP) to improve undergraduate student education for the Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm Student Union: Ballroom B
Poster Session Part of Wednesday Session


Lixin Jin, University of Texas at El Paso
Tina Carrick, El Paso Community College
Aaron Velasco, University of Texas at El Paso
Lin Ma, University of Texas at El Paso
Recruiting, retaining, and preparing the next generation of diverse geoscientists requires exposing students to the wide-range of career opportunities and emerging geoscience topics and environmental issues through hands-on activities and research experiences. We build upon past, successful efforts plus leverage the University of Texas at El Paso's (UTEP's) unique demographic and research infrastructure to develop a comprehensive program that educates and prepare diverse geoscientists to earn advance degrees and/or enter the workforce: Academic Year Pathways Research Experience Program (AY-PREP). The program includes: 1) an academic year interdisciplinary research experience, 2) weekly seminars and workshops to expose students to cutting-edge research, graduate programs, and career opportunities, and prepare students for technical, professional, and soft skills; 3) a stratified mentoring program; and 4) the opportunity for the cohort to participate in the deployment of a seismic field experiment. Currently the program has 10 undergraduate participants: 8 female, 2 male; 9 Hispanic and 1 White.

Pre- and post-semester surveys have been used to evaluate the effectiveness of this program and its impacts. Preliminary data suggest that students extremely enjoy being part of a cohort working in teams, and having the opportunity, as an undergraduate, to design a research project, collect data, test a hypothesis and present this work in different settings. The participants find the seminar topics to be important, beneficial, and enjoyable. Several students have had summer fieldwork made available through our partnership with Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and NSF-funded Critical Science Observatory Program. These experiences have significantly improved students in their attitudes towards scientific research, ability to collaborate and work as a team, and professional readiness.