Tracking Student Participants From A REU Site With NAE Grand Challenges As The Common Theme

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Susan Burkett
Tabatha Dye
Pauline Johnson


Undergraduate, Research Experience, Societal Impact


The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges provides the theme for this NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site. Research topics, with their broad societal impact, allow undergraduate students from multiple engineering disciplines and computer science to work together on exciting and critical problems. The approach to addressing the need for research in critical technical areas includes: providing research training in multi-disciplinary research fields; developing technical and professional skills; networking with fellow REU students and participating faculty advisors; and raising student interest and awareness in both graduate studies and our nation’s most critical problems. The Grand Challenges investigated by student participants include: making solar energy economical; providing access to clean water; advancing health informatics; securing cyberspace; restoring and improving urban infrastructure; engineering the tools of scientific discovery; engineering better medicines; and advancing personalized learning. Over a three-year period, 34 students participated in the REU Site and 58.8% were students underrepresented in engineering. The student participants published their work and gave presentations in regional and national conferences. Several graduate students gained leadership experience by assisting in program coordination. Based on surveys, overall, student participants value most the opportunity to contribute to a research group on exciting and relevant problems. Tracking efforts resulted in locating 100% of the student participants. We found 38.2% completed their undergraduate degrees and now have positions in industry; 38.2% are currently in graduate school and 8.8% have completed their graduate degrees; 14.7% are still pursuing engineering or computer science undergraduate degrees.


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