386517 Implementation Strategies for a Large, Multi-Institutional REU Program and Key Actions of Successful Summer Research Mentors
Summer research opportunities for undergraduates, such as those supported by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, can be critical experiences that help persuade students to pursue graduate work. Our team has been involved in the administration and assessment of a large, multi-year REU associated with one of NSF’s Engineering Research Centers (ERC) with a significant emphasis on Chemical Engineering. Because ERC’s are 10-year projects, we have thus far five project years of experience with running a large, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional REU program that has served over sixty students since its inception. We will report on approaches to recruitment, project definition, placing and advising students, and assessing programs.
We will also discuss our unique approaches to training REU mentors. Because of the relatively small cohort size associated with single programs (ca. 8 – 12 students typically), the existing literature regarding mentoring in these programs is fairly anecdotal in nature; we are unaware of any examples of hypothesis driven research exploring the factors leading to positive outcomes for REU students, nor of any regarding the qualities associated with successful undergraduate research mentoring. In 2013, we conducted a survey of over 100 participants in multiple REU programs at our institution, exploring the validity of several hypotheses we had regarding the importance of mentoring and the qualities that characterize good mentoring. We will report preliminary findings from that effort, which include evidence-based recommendations on factors that lead to participant satisfaction, and on approaches to successful mentoring.