The goals of the SwISTEM Early Undergraduate Research Program are in line with our vision of engaging students, promoting a team oriented approach to teaching and learning, creating a more hands-on nurturing faculty, increasing retention and graduation rates, and producing highly qualified innovative undergraduate STEM majors.
The Early Undergraduate Research Program will engage talented undergraduate STEM majors at ITCC and USI in exciting and innovative scientific research early in their college careers. Early Undergraduate Research will begin in the summer following a student’s freshman year, continue during the sophomore academic year, and again during the summer after the student’s sophomore year. After two summers and one academic year of research, students will be encouraged to continue research in one of the many REU programs nationwide, with the USI/ITCC research mentor, or with a local STEM business or industry. It should be emphasized that the length of this interaction between faculty and students will also serve to allow the faculty member to closely mentor and nurture the students throughout the first two critical years of study.
In the Early Undergraduate Research Program, STEM majors will work with faculty mentors as research assistants in ongoing research projects. In this process the students will be using the skills and knowledge acquired in the classroom to learn and produce new knowledge. With the guidance and nurturing of their faculty mentor and collaboration with the other student members of the research group, a more collegial and team-oriented approach will ensue.
Each research group will be led by a faculty member(s) and consist of one or more students, depending on the nature of the faculty members’ research. The student involvement with the faculty members’ research will begin the summer between the freshman and sophomore year and continue during the sophomore academic year and then again during the summer between the sophomore and junior year.
The summer portion of the program will be eight weeks in length. Each faculty-led research group will meet each weekday. Students will be expected to work on research projects outside the formal meeting times. At first, many groups will find the beginning of the summer to be dedicated to discussions about the background and methodology of the research work. However, each group will strive to begin hands-on activity in the first week. In addition, speakers from within the STEM communities (business and industry) will deliver STEM related presentations to the student and faculty participants illustrating the range of STEM career options. Visits to local STEM industries will also be arranged.
Each Friday, students and faculty members involved in the program will meet for a weekly seminar providing updates on research progress. Students will give brief presentations on the work accomplished and next steps in their research experience. Presentations will rotate between students in each research group. At the end of the summer each student will be required to make a more comprehensive presentation to the university community regarding the research completed. Students will prepare final written documents about their research. At the end of the two-year commitment the students should have completed work to be presented in a wide variety of undergraduate research forums (i.e. NCUR, Butler Undergraduate Research Conference) as well as regional and national meetings in the respective fields.
During the academic year, students will continue the collaboration with their research leader. Each student will be enrolled in a research course specific to their major to earn credit hours. Research undertaken during the academic year will be structured according to faculty mentor and student schedules.
At the end of the Early Undergraduate Research period, each student will complete a final written document describing research accomplishments, and skills learned. In addition, students will write about their experiences in the Early Undergraduate Research Program (benefits, drawbacks, etc.). Reports will be available on the SwISTEM website. Prospective students to both the program and the university will be able to see the types of experiences possible in the SwISTEM program.
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