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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
 Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM Students:
Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities

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Report Brief

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Undergraduate research has a rich history, and many practicing researchers point to undergraduate research experiences (UREs) as crucial to their own career success. There are many ongoing efforts to improve undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education that focus on increasing the active engagement of students and decreasing traditional lecture-based teaching, and UREs have been proposed as a solution to these efforts and may be a key strategy for broadening participation in STEM. In light of the proposals questions have been asked about what is known about student participation in UREs, best practices in UREs design, and evidence of beneficial outcomes from UREs.

Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM Students provides a comprehensive overview of and insights about the current and rapidly evolving types of UREs, in an effort to improve understanding of the complexity of UREs in terms of their content, their surrounding context, the diversity of the student participants, and the opportunities for learning provided by a research experience. This study analyzes UREs by considering them as part of a learning system that is shaped by forces related to national policy, institutional leadership, and departmental culture, as well as by the interactions among faculty, other mentors, and students. The report provides a set of questions to be considered by those implementing UREs as well as an agenda for future research that can help.

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Press Release

Public Report Launch

June 2, 2017


The Board on Science Education held a public event to discuss the recent report Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM Students: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities. The event featuree invited presentations and moderated panel discussions on how to build institutional capacity for undergraduate research experiences and how to build evidence of student learning.

Speakers included:
(Speakers' Biosketches)

Heather Belmont, Miami Dade College
Sara Brownell
, Arizona State University
Deborah Carter
, Claremont Graduate University
Michael Dorff
, Brigham Young University
Sue Ebanks
, Savannah State University
Mica Estrada
, University of California, San Francisco
Courtney Faber
, The University of Tennessee
Jim Gentile
, Hope College
Paul Hernandez
, West Virginia University
Marco Molinaro
, University of California, Davis
Jeffrey Osborn
, The College of New Jersey
Susan Singer
, Rollins College
Heather Thiry
, University of Colorado
Gabriela Weaver
, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Overview of the Report: Heather Thiry

Commentary on the Report: Gabriela Weaver

A Case Study in Expanding Capacity for UREs – Institutionalizing Undergraduate Student Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activity: Jeffrey Osborn

Building Institutional Capacity for UREs:

Measuring Self-Regulation Skills in URE Participants: Paul Hernandez

Designing CUREs to Assess Goals: Sara Brownell

Understanding Students Identities as Researchers: Courtney Faber

Archived Webcast

In the News

Project Related Resources
  Resources from committee meetings
Commissioned Papers

 Committee Members
Member Bios

James Genile (Chair), Hope College
Ann Beheler, Collin County Community College, TX
Janet Branchaw, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Deborah F. Carter, Claremont Graduate University
Melanie Cooper
, Michigan State University
Edward J. Coyle, Georgia Institute of Technology
Sarah C.R. Elgin, Washington University at St. Louis
Mica Estada, University of California
Eli Fromm, Drexel University
Ralph Garruto, State University of New York,
Eric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison
James Hewlett, Finger Lakes Community College
Laird Kramer, Florida International University
Marcia C. Linn, University of California, Berkeley
Linda A. Reinen, Pomona College, Claremont, CA
Heather Thiry, University of Colorado, Boulder


Kerry Brenner, Study Director
Jay Labov, Senior Scientist
Amy Stephens, Program Officer
Miriam Scheiber, Program Assistant

Related Reports

Service-Learning in Undergraduate Geosciences: Proceedings of a Workshop summarizes a workshop held in April 2016 that explored the current and potential role of service-learning in undergraduate geosciences education. The term “service-learning” generally refers to projects planned as components of academic coursework in which students use knowledge and skills taught in the course to address real needs in their communities. This kind of learning experience, which allows students to focus on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility, has become an increasingly popular component of undergraduate science education.

Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees reviews research on the roles that people, processes, and institutions play in 2-and 4-year STEM degree production. This study pays special attention to the factors that influence students’ decisions to enter, stay in, or leave STEM majors—quality of instruction, grading policies, course sequences, undergraduate learning environments, student supports, co-curricular activities, students’ general academic preparedness and competence in science, family background, and governmental and institutional policies that affect STEM educational pathways.

Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum: Report of a Convocation summarizes the presentations and discussions from a convocation meant to examine the efficacy of engaging large numbers of undergraduate students who are enrolled in traditional academic year courses in the life and related sciences in original research, civic engagement around scientific issues, and/or intensive study of research methods and scientific publications at both two- and four-year colleges and universities. Participants explored the benefits and costs of offering students such experiences and the ways that such efforts may both influence and be influenced by issues such as institutional governance, available resources, and professional expectations of faculty.



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