Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke

Hands on research experiences for undergraduates

Hands on research experiences for undergraduates offer unique active learning experiences with real-world questions.  These experiences has been shown to create communities that improve 4 year graduation rates.  They could also help create a student body and alumni population that recognize the importance of the research mission of large RI universities.

The limiting factor has been our ability to scale these research opportunities to serve large numbers of students in a meaningful way. Course-based approaches have been successful but reach a small fraction of our undergraduates. Many faculty see undergraduate involvement in their research as valuable to the students but too costly in terms of their time relative to benefit to their research program. We need to make it easier for faculty to enable these kinds of experiences.

Quantitative, analytical skill sets and the “curiosity to question” are vital in our economy of ideas but can be challenging to teach. One way to scale these experiences is for graduate students to be mentors or research collaborators with involved undergraduates. However, graduate students often do not receive training in appropriate and ethical research mentorship. My project creates a research methods, data analysis and visualization course framework that simultaneously trains graduate students in research mentorship.

My mission is to build a framework that works in any field at UT. All course materials would be readily available and would include a bank of resources from across the university for faculty to draw upon. This bank is in progress, including syllabi, course materials and web links from related classes.

In 2017-2018, I’d like to find 2-5 partners in other colleges to try out this course model. Long term success would be:

  1. to determine if this model is effective at making Undergraduate Research Experiences/Experiential Learning scalable via a model that could be easily integrated into curricula across colleges and programs (as a course).
  2. Graduate students gain research mentorship skills.
  3. The web bank of related offerings is used and related courses increase experiential learning and research involvement across colleges.