ArticlePDF Available

The Relationship of Undergraduate Research Participation to Graduate and Professional Education Pursuit: An Empirical Study


Abstract and Figures

This study investigates the relationship of undergraduate research participation to pursuit of graduate education and other activities. Data came from 291 survey respondent who provided information about their post-graduate education pursuits and activities. The findings indicate that undergraduate research participants were more likely to pursue graduate education and additional research activity. (Contains 21 references and 4 tables.) (Author)
Content may be subject to copyright.
The Relationship of Undergraduate Research
Participation to Graduate and Professional
Education Pursuit: An Empirical Study
Russel S. Hathaway Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda Sandra R. Gregerman
In this study we investigate the relationship
of undergraduate research participation to
pursuit of graduate education and other
activities. Data come from 291 survey
respondents who provided information about
their post-undergraduate education pursuits
and activities. The findings indicate that
undergraduate research participants were
significantly more likely to pursue graduate
education and additional research activity.
The recruitment of talented undergraduates
into graduate and professional education has
been an ongoing concern for higher edu-
cation. A number of barriers exist to the
pursuit of graduate education. Graduate
education today is more expensive, and
institutions are less likely to offer financial
support in terms of tuition deferments and
waivers, particularly for those who pursue
medical, law, and business degrees (Bowen
& Rudenstine, 1992). Though doctoral stu-
dents are well supported, they often accumu-
late substantial financial debt (Schapiro,
O’Malley, & Litten, 1991). In addition,
doctoral students in the social sciences are
aware of the difficulties they face securing
employment after they complete their Ph.D.
degrees (Schapiro et al.). Furthermore, the
academic culture of some fields, in parti-
cular, the sciences, makes them less attrac-
Russel S. Hathaway is ____ of ___ at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda
is ___ of ___ at the University of Washington, Seattle. Sandra R. Gregerman is ___ of ___ at the University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor. This research was supported by grants from the Fund for the Improvement for
Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) of the Department of Education, the Recognition Award for the
Integration of Research in Education (RAIRE) of the National Science Foundation, and the University of
tive to women and underrepresented students
of color (African American, Latina/o Ameri-
can, Native American) (Seymour, 1995a,
1995b). There have been many efforts
focused on preparing and attracting under-
graduates to pursue further education.
Especially important is recruiting and
retaining underrepresented students of color
and women in graduate and professional
education for positions in fields that have
been traditionally occupied by White men.
Despite the challenges inherent in
pursuing postgraduate education, a large
proportion of incoming first-year students
indicate they expect to pursue postbacca-
laureate degrees (Pascarella & Terenzini,
1991). Research shows that students’ under-
graduate experiences play a significant role
in their pursuit of postbaccalaureate degrees
(Astin, 1993; Ethington & Smart, 1986;
Hearn, 1987; Pascarella & Terenzini). For
instance, attending racial or ethnic work-
shops, taking interdisciplinary courses,
participating on research projects, and
interacting with faculty are all factors that
appear to influence such educational aspir-
ations (Astin; Pascarella & Terenzini; Tinto,
1993). Faculty-student interaction, in parti-
cular, appears to play a pivotal role not only
in academic achievement, student retention,
and institutional satisfaction, but also in
Please provide missing
information : [position] of
2Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
students’ decisions to pursue further edu-
cation (Astin; Pascarella & Terenzini).
Specifically, the number of hours per week
students talked with faculty outside of class
and worked on a professor’s research project,
and the number of their class papers critiqued
by faculty influence graduate education
degree aspirations (Astin). Furthermore,
faculty-student interaction is also related to
students’ pursuit of academic careers as
college faculty or research scientist (Astin).
Several institutions have developed pro-
grams designed to facilitate and enhance
faculty-student interaction (see Lenning &
Ebbers, 1999; Shapiro & Levine, 1999 for a
review of such programs).
Early research into graduate education
identified characteristics of graduate students
and reasons for attending graduate or
professional school (Ethington & Smart,
1986; Hearn, 1987). Central literature on
predictors influencing the pursuit of graduate
education is based on the research and theory
of undergraduate student retention and attri-
tion (Ethington & Smart; Hearn; Malaney
& Isaac, 1988). Researchers have applied
Astin’s theory of involvement (Astin, 1993)
and Tinto’s theory of student departure
(1975, 1987, 1993) to their analyses of the
factors influencing students’ decisions to
pursue graduate education. Astin’s theory of
involvement posits that students learn by
becoming involved. The more involved, both
qualitatively and quantitatively, the more
likely the student is to become integrated
into the undergraduate academic and social
experience. This in turn leads to their
persistence and academic success. In his
model of undergraduate student persistence
in postsecondary education, Tinto theorized
that the degree of social and academic
integration experienced by students influ-
ences persistence toward graduation (Tinto,
1975, 1987, 1993). By extending Tinto’s
theory, several researchers have found that
the influences of social and academic
integration are approximately equal, and that
students with higher levels of overall
integration are more likely to enroll in
graduate programs (Ethington & Smart;
Common to these theoretical models is
the assumption that enrollment in graduate
education is the culmination of a series of
decisions made by the student concerning the
extent of commitment to their education
(Ethington & Smart, 1986; Hearn, 1987).
Students’ initial decisions involve the choice
of undergraduate institution. Once at the
institution, the student makes a series of
decisions about their degree of engagement
with the institution and their own academic
progress. Student background characteristics
such as family education level, family
income, high school grades, academic self-
confidence, and social self-confidence
significantly predict student engagement
with the institution (Ethington & Smart;
Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). However,
student background characteristics only
influence graduate education pursuit in-
directly through their effects on students’
type and quality of institutional involvement
(Ethington & Smart; Hearn; Pascarella &
Terenzini). That is, the interactions and
experiences students have at an institution
have a stronger influence on their pursuit of
graduate education than do their incoming
background characteristics (Ethington &
Smart; Hearn). Environmental factors are
considered to have a more direct influence
on students’ involvement. The focus of our
study lay in understanding the role of the
environmental factors as the students make
decisions about their degree and quality of
their engagement with the institution.
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
Environmental Factors
Central to Tinto’s theory is the notion that
the greater the student’s social and academic
involvement, the more likely the student is
to persist to degree completion. Academic
and social integration is influenced by
various factors, including, but not limited to,
faculty-student interaction, overall levels of
faculty supportiveness of students, depart-
mental grading practices, and departmental
size (Astin, 1993; Ethington & Smart, 1986;
Hearn, 1987; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991).
Such integration leads to higher levels of
academic achievement, which in turn,
influences the pursuit of graduate education
(Astin; Ethington & Smart; Hearn; Pascarella
& Terenzini).
The environment of students’ primary
academic department has the strongest
effects on enrollment in graduate school.
Students who major in science, premedicine,
or prelaw are more likely to attend graduate
school, whereas students who major in
engineering, business, or nursing are less
likely to attend graduate school (Astin,
1993). Research suggests that due to the
large salaries and job opportunities in the
engineering and business fields, students in
those fields have less reason to acquire
advanced degrees (Astin; Hauptman, 1986).
A student-oriented faculty also positively
affects graduate school attendance, as does
the receipt of financial aid based on aca-
demic merit (Ethington & Smart, 1986;
Hearn, 1987). Attending a public university,
attending a large institution, and percentage
of students majoring in engineering, have a
negative effect on graduate school atten-
dance (Astin). Undergraduate GPA is the
involvement or intermediate outcome vari-
able that shows the strongest correlation with
enrollment in graduate school. Other in-
volvement measures showing positive
associations with enrollment in graduate
school include working on a professor’s
research project, student-faculty out-of-class
contact, honors programs enrollment, and
number of science courses taken (Ethington
& Smart; Hearn; Malaney & Isaac, 1988).
Faculty-student interaction, one measure
of academic integration, has been shown to
play a positive role in affecting under-
graduate students’ decision to apply to
graduate school (Hearn, 1987). However,
research suggests that educational aspira-
tions and plans are more affected by per-
sonalized interactions with individual
professors than by the supportiveness of the
overall department climate (Astin, 1993;
Ethington & Smart, 1986; Hearn). In this
study, we focused on the impact of faculty-
student research partnerships on several key
outcomes, most importantly, undergraduate
student pursuit of graduate education and
continued involvement in research activity
after graduation. Such partnerships are
construed as mentoring relationships in
which undergraduates—first-year students
and sophomores—work under faculty guid-
ance on ongoing faculty research projects.
In effect, such faculty-student interactions
are at least qualitatively different than those
interactions in classroom-related settings or
advising situations. Moreover, these partner-
ships are not simply student initiated as other
faculty-student interactions may be, but part
of an institutionalized program on under-
graduate research.
The Undergraduate Research
Opportunity Program (UROP)
UROP was originally developed in 1988 to
increase the retention and improve the
academic performance of underrepresented
students of color at a large Midwestern
research university. UROP was developed to
4Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
engage first-year and sophomore under-
graduates at the university more directly with
faculty so that they could benefit from the
wealth of research activity taking place at
the university and acquire an interest in
research-related or academic careers, thus
promoting integration into the academic
milieu. Today, the program is open to all
undergraduate students, and continues to
facilitate academic achievement and reten-
tion. The program has been successfully
meeting its goals. Research indicates that
UROP students show higher retention
rates and academic achievement than do
non-UROP students (Nagda, Gregerman,
Jonides, von Hippel & Lerner, 1998). UROP
remains committed to the academic achieve-
ment and retention of underrepresented
students of color and has an emergent focus
on retaining women in science and engin-
eering fields. Other goals of UROP include
increasing the participation of underrepre-
sented students of color in the sciences and
facilitating these students’ graduate edu-
cation pursuit and postgraduate research
UROP focuses on faculty-student collab-
oration in research. Students participate in
a faculty research project for 10 to 12 hours
per week, either for academic credit or as a
work-study position. These partnerships are
also supplemented by a program support
system. Students attend an orientation week
program to become familiar with UROP and
with the job of working on faculty research
projects. Students’ attend biweekly peer
group meetings in which they can share their
experiences with other students participating
in research in similar academic disciplines.
All UROP students are assigned a peer
advisor with whom they meet on a monthly
basis. Students must apply to the research
projects in which they have an interest,
develop a resume, and interview with faculty
and staff for those research projects. At the
conclusion of their research experiences,
students have the opportunity to present a
poster session of their research during a
campus-wide seminar (see Nagda et al.,
1998, for a description of the program
In this paper, we report on a research
study that investigated the impact of parti-
cipation in an undergraduate research
program on students’ pursuit of graduate and
professional education. We surveyed two
groups of alumni of the University of
Michigan: those who had participated in the
program between 1989 and 1994 and those
who had applied to participate but were not
admitted to the program during those years.
The research was guided by three questions:
(a) Do participants in undergraduate research
projects differ from nonparticipants in
their pursuit of graduate education and
involvement in postundergraduate research
activity?; (b) Do participants in under-
graduate research differ from nonresearch
participants in the use of faculty for job
recommendations and contact with faculty
after graduation?; and (c) Does under-
graduate research confer different benefits
by race or ethnicity, that is, do students of
color involved in research differ from their
White counterparts in pursuit of graduate
education and involvement in postunder-
graduate research activity?
Participants and Design
Given the limited number of spaces in UROP
and the large number of applicants, we used
a stratified random sampling method for
selecting students to participate in the UROP
program. We sent all applicants a letter
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
stating that there had been more applicants
than positions, so admission was determined
by lottery. Thus, all the students—those in
UROP and those rejected—understood that
their status had been determined by chance.
In this way, we avoided making the students
in the control group feel that rejection of
their application for the UROP program was
based on their credentials, as indeed it was
not. The sample consisted of 1 UROP
student matched to 1 to 3 non-UROP
students. UROP and non-UROP students
were matched on major field of study (e.g.,
English, biology), race or ethnicity (African
American, White, Asian American, Latino/
a American, Native American), graduation
date, and cumulative university GPA. Each
UROP student was matched to 1 to 3 non-
UROP students to insure that each UROP
student would have at least one non-UROP
student return a completed survey. This
match allowed comparison between two
groups of students who should have the same
incoming motivations to participate in
undergraduate research and allowed for
analysis of the impact of undergraduate
research above and beyond differences on
incoming background characteristics.
Although the alumni survey sample
consisted of 521 graduates, due to the
unavailability of accurate mailing addresses,
we sent surveys to 497 students from the
original list. The alumni received a small
piece of University of Michigan memorabilia
in the mailing as an incentive, and those
students who returned surveys were entered
into a lottery to win a University of Michigan
embroidered sweatshirt. We received 291
completed surveys, for a 58.55% return rate.
This sample consisted of 183 research
graduates (62.9%) and 108 nonresearch
graduates (37.1%). The sample consisted of
33.3% African American, 21.9% White,
30.9% Asian American, 12.5% Latina/o
American, and 1.4% Native American. The
sample, therefore, consisted of 47.2%
underrepresented students of color—African
American, Native American, and Latina/o.
Students of color comprised 49.5% of the
no research, 41.0% of the other research, and
51.9% of the UROP groups. At the time of
the survey, 30.9% of the respondents indi-
cated that they were in school and 78.6%
indicated that they were currently working.
Of the respondents, 37.2% had not parti-
cipated in any form of undergraduate
research, 28.1% participated in UROP, and
34.7% participated in non-UROP under-
graduate research.
Our original sample was developed by
matching 1 UROP student to 1 to 3 non-
UROP students, who, presumably, did not
participate in any undergraduate research
experiences. However, this assumption
proved incorrect. Many of the non-UROP
students in the sample did participate in some
other form of undergraduate research. A
question on the survey asked students to
indicate whether they participated in under-
graduate research. Therefore, we identified
students three ways: students who parti-
cipated in UROP, students who participated
in other undergraduate research, and students
who did not participate in any undergraduate
The survey consisted of questions asking
respondents about their graduate educational
and work or career experiences. We used
UROP participation and other research
participation as indicators of personalized
faculty/student interaction. Students were
categorized into one of three groups:
(a) students who participated in UROP
(hereafter referred to as the UROP group),
6Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
(b) students who participated in other
undergraduate research (other research), and
(c) students who did not participate in
undergraduate research (no research). See
Appendix for variable descriptions.
Of the respondents, 36.6% indicated that
they used a faculty member for a job
recommendation. Of those respondents that
used faculty for job recommendations,
59.1% used more than one faculty member
for a recommendation. 25.1% of respondents
still kept in contact with University of
Michigan faculty. Of the alumni who re-
sponded to the question about postgraduate
research, 45.6% indicated that they were
currently involved in some type of research
activity. Three fourths (75.6%) of the
respondents went on to further education
beyond their undergraduate degree. Of the
respondents who went on to pursue or
complete a graduate degree, 56.8% received
a medical, law, or Ph.D. degree, and 43.2%
acquired an MA or other degree.
Subsequent analyses compared the effect
of undergraduate research participation on
the outcomes identified.
Effect of Undergraduate Research
Table 1 shows Chi-square results comparing
UROP, other research, and no research
students on outcomes of using faculty for job
recommendations, remaining in contact with
faculty, engaging in graduate research,
pursuing graduate education, and pursuing
professional education degrees. The chi-
square statistic for all five outcomes was
significant, indicating a difference by UROP,
other research, and no research participation.
Pursuit of graduate education and
involvement in postundergraduate research.
The chi-square for graduate education
(whether students pursued some form of
Chi-Square Analyses by Research Participation on Key Outcome Variables
(n = 288) [Should this be N = 288 ?]
UROP Other Research No Research
(n = 81) (n = 100) (n = 107)
Variable % % % Chi-Square
Graduate Education 81.5 82.0 65.4 9.77**
Professional Education 71.2 58.5 41.4 12.43**
Research Activity 51.9 56.6 30.1 16.04***
Faculty Recommendation 43.9 48.2 22.1 14.70***
Faculty Contact 18.5 36.7 19.2 10.83**
**p < .01. ***p < .001.
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
graduate or professional education) was
significant, χ2(2, N = 288) = 9.77, p < .01.
Looking at pursuit of graduate education by
group, 81.5% of the UROP, 82.0% of the
other research, and 65.4% of the no research
students pursued some form of graduate
education. UROP and other research students
were significantly more likely to pursue
postgraduate education than the no research
The three groups also differed on profes-
sional education, χ2(2, N = 288) = 12.43,
p < .01. Of those who pursued a graduate
education, 71.2% of the UROP, 58.5% of the
other research, and 41.4% of the no research
students pursued a professional degree. The
main effect for research activity—whether
students continue to engage in research after
graduation—was significant, χ2(2, N = 288)
= 16.04, p < .001. Broken down by group,
51.9% of the UROP students, 56.6% of the
other research students, and 30.1% of the no
research students participated in some form
of research activity. Students who parti-
cipated in UROP or other research were
significantly more likely to be engaged in
research activity after graduation than their
counterparts who did not participate in any
undergraduate research.
Use of Faculty Recommendations and
Contact With Faculty. The chi-square for
faculty recommendation indicated a signi-
ficant difference among the three groups,
χ2(2, N = 288) = 14.70, p < .001. Table 1
indicates that 43.9% of the UROP students,
48.2% of the other research students, and
22.1% of the no research participants
indicated that they used faculty for job
recommendations. These results indicate that
undergraduate research participants were
significantly more likely to use faculty for
job recommendations than their nonresearch
On faculty contact, the chi-square was
significant, χ2(2, N = 288) = 10.83, p < .01,
indicating that the three groups differed on
the degree to which they remain in contact
with faculty after graduation. Broken down
Chi-Square Analyses by Research Participation on Key Outcome Variables—
Underrepresented Students of Color (n = 136)
UROP Other Research No Research
(n = 42) (n = 41) (n = 53)
Variable % % % Chi-Square
Graduate Education 78.6 82.9 56.6 9.39**
Professional Education 66.7 38.2 36.7 7.44*
Research Activity 50.0 50.0 25.5 7.83*
Faculty Recommendation 41.4 55.3 16.0 15.30***
Faculty Contact 19.0 45.0 20.0 9.10**
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
8Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
by group, 18.5% of the UROP students,
36.7% of the other research students, and
19.2% of the no research students remained
in contact with faculty. UROP students, in
fact, appear no different from the no research
students on remaining in contact with
faculty. So, although UROP and other
research students did not differ on the degree
to which they used faculty for job recom-
mendations, other research students were
significantly more likely than the UROP
students to remain in contact with under-
graduate faculty.
Effect of Undergraduate Research
Participation by Race or Ethnicity
Tables 2 and 3 show chi-square analyses by
race or ethnicity on our key outcome
variables of interest. We performed the chi-
square analyses on subsamples, first, com-
paring underrepresented students of color to
one another, and second, White and Asian
American students to one another. The chi-
square was significant, χ2(2, N = 136)
= 9.39, p < .01, for graduate education for
the underrepresented student of color
sample, but not for the White and Asian
American sample. Broken down by group,
78.6% of the UROP, 82.9% of the other
research, and 56.6% of the no research
students of color pursued graduate edu-
cation. This result indicates that UROP and
other research students of color were
significantly more likely to pursue graduate
education than were students of color who
did not participate in undergraduate research.
However, for White and Asian American
students, participation in undergraduate
research was not related to pursuit of
graduate education.
On professional education pursuit, the
results differed slightly. The chi-square for
the underrepresented students of color
sample was significant, χ2(2, N = 136)
= 7.44, p < .05, but the significance was
being driven by the UROP students; 66.7%
of the UROP compared to 38.2% of the other
research and 36.7% of the no research
Chi-Square Analyses by Research Participation on Key Outcome Variables—
White and Asian American Students (n = 152)
UROP Other Research No Research
(n = 39) (n = 59) (n = 54)
Variable % % % Chi-Square
Graduate Education 84.6 81.4 74.1 1.73
Professional Education 75.8 72.9 45.0 9.95**
Research Activity 54.1 61.0 34.6 8.03*
Faculty Recommendation 46.4 42.2 28.9 2.77
Faculty Contact 17.9 31.0 18.5 3.27
*p < .05. **p < .01.
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
underrepresented students of color, pursued
professional degrees. The chi-square for
White and Asian American students’ profes-
sional education pursuit is significant,
χ2(2, N = 152) = 9.95, p < .01; 75.8% of the
UROP and 72.9 % of the other research
compared to 45.0% of the no research White
and Asian American students pursue profes-
sional education. For underrepresented
students of color, therefore, research experi-
ences are related to graduate education
pursuit, and UROP participants are more
likely to pursue law, medical, or doctoral
degrees. In contrast, for White and Asian
American students undergraduate research
participation is not related to graduate
education pursuit, but undergraduate re-
search participation of any type is related to
the pursuit of professional degrees.
Table 4 shows Chi-square analyses
further detailing the racial or ethnic dif-
ferences. In Table 4 we present comparisons
between (a) White and Asian American
students, and (b) students of color by
research type for the two education variables.
There were no differences on research
activity, faculty recommendations, or faculty
contact in these analyses. White/Asian and
students of color do not differ on education
variables for the no research and UROP
groups. The two groups do not differ on
pursuit of graduate education for the other
research group, however, they did differ on
the pursuit of professional education, with
White and Asian American students signi-
ficantly more likely than their other research
underrepresented student of color counter-
parts to pursue professional degrees. In
Chi-Square Analyses Comparing Graduate Education Pursuit by Race or Ethnicity
for UROP and Other Research Participants
White and Asian Underrepresented
American Students Students of Color
Variable % % Chi-Square
No research
Graduate Education 74.1 56.6 3.61
Professional Education 45.0 36.7 0.49
Graduate Education 84.6 78.6 0.49
Professional Education 75.8 66.7 0.67
Other Research
Graduate Education 81.4 82.9 0.04
Professional Education 72.9 38.2 9.86**
10 Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
contrast, in the UROP group, White and
Asian American students did not differ from
underrepresented students of color on
professional education. In other words,
UROP underrepresented students of color
looked more like their UROP White and
Asian American counterparts in pursuit of
professional degrees, whereas White and
Asian American other research participants
were significantly more likely to pursue
these degrees than their underrepresented
student of color counterparts.
On research activity, the chi-squares
were significant for both the underrepre-
sented students of color sample and the
White and Asian American sample. Within
groups, 50% of the UROP, 50% of the other
research, and 25.5% of the no research
students of color were engaged in research
activity, χ2(2, N = 136) = 7.83, p < .05.
Among White and Asian American students,
54.1% of the UROP and 61.0% of the other
research students were engaged in post-
graduation research activity as compared
to 34.6% of the no research students,
χ2(2, N = 152) = 8.03, p < .05.
On faculty recommendations and faculty
contact, the chi-squares are only significant
for the student of color sample. Table 3
shows that 41.4% of the UROP and 55.3%
of the other research students of color used
a faculty member for a job recommendation,
whereas only 16.0% of the no research
students of color did so, χ2(2, N = 136)
= 15.30, p < .001. Though significant, the
chi-square results for faculty contact differed
slightly from the faculty recommendation
results. More students of color in the other
research sample maintained contact with
faculty (45%) compared to the UROP (19%)
or no research students (20%),
χ2(2, N = 136) = 9.10, p < .01.
This study was designed to assess the
influence of students’ participation in UROP
on several key outcomes related to their
pursuit of graduate education. The research
design was conceptualized as an experi-
mental-control group comparison. Many of
the non-UROP students who were in the
control group indicated, however, that they
had participated in some type of under-
graduate research activity. We, therefore,
reconceptualized our analytic strategy to
make comparisons among three groups:
students who participated in UROP, students
who participated in other undergraduate
research, and students who did not partici-
pate in any undergraduate research. The
findings show a uniformly positive influence
of undergraduate research participation.
Students who were involved in under-
graduate research were more likely to pursue
graduate education, pursue postunder-
graduate research activity, and use faculty
for job recommendations than students who
did not participate in undergraduate research.
Our results also indicate that UROP has a
particular relationship to the pursuit of
professional degree programs, presumably
more selective in their admissions and
more challenging than two-year graduate
programs, for underrepresented students of
These findings are consistent with higher
education literature that suggests that
faculty-student interaction and research
participation does influence education
aspirations (Astin, 1993; Pascarella &
Terenzini, 1991). Our findings, however,
extend prior research conclusions, indicating
that such interaction and participation is
related to actual graduate education enroll-
ment, not just the aspiration to pursue
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
graduate or professional education. Although
the literature also suggests that students at
large or public institutions are less likely to
pursue graduate or professional education,
our findings show that undergraduate
research participation can potentially coun-
teract some of the factors at large research
institutions that may inhibit graduate edu-
cation pursuit (see Astin). Undergraduate
research and faculty-student interaction may
involve students in smaller communities or
may offer them closer contact with faculty
not easily accessible at large public insti-
tutions, providing an inroad for students to
connect to the institution and ultimately, may
facilitate their pursuit of graduate education.
Our findings support the wisdom of the
growing national development of under-
graduate research programs (Strassburger,
Does the Type of Undergraduate
Research Experience Matter?
Higher education institutions today are
offering a wide range of undergraduate
research programs. Some, such as UROP or
research-based living-learning programs, are
highly structured and provide many support
systems for students—peer advisors, special
workshops and seminars, regular meetings,
and financial incentives—that require
substantial resource investment by insti-
tutions. Other programs may be thought of
as clearinghouses. They solicit faculty
projects and make these research oppor-
tunities available to interested students.
Although they may have some incentives for
students, such as financial stipends, they
typically do not have any systemic ways of
supporting or monitoring student progress.
Although also requiring resources, these
programs may require less institutional
investment than do structured programs.
Finally, faculty may hire undergraduate
students to work on research projects
independent of any program or institutional
With the diversity of undergraduate
research experiences rising on college and
university campuses, it is important to note
that the current literature does not address
the issue of whether the structure of under-
graduate research influences the type of
graduate or professional education that
students decide to pursue. This study showed
some notable differences between students
who participated in UROP, a structured
program, and in other undergraduate re-
search activities. UROP students were
significantly more likely to pursue law,
medical, or doctoral degrees than students
who participated in other undergraduate
research and students who did not participate
in any form of undergraduate research.
UROP students who participate on medical
science research projects and who attend the
medical sciences peer group meetings may
develop a more nuanced understanding of
the requirements and demands to gain
acceptance to professional degree programs
and pursue careers in these fields. Within the
structure of peer advisor meetings, career
workshops, and peer group meetings, stu-
dents may acquire experiences that develop
their undergraduate transcripts and resumes,
and make them more competitive and more
likely to enter more demanding postgraduate
and professional programs. The UROP
programmatic support combined with having
daily and weekly contact with faculty and
graduate students in a research setting may
assist students to better understand what it
is like to be a faculty member, medical
doctor, Ph.D. student, or lawyer. Although
UROP may attract incoming students with
a predisposition to pursue these degrees, both
12 Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
the controls and other research students were
students who applied to UROP and were
randomly rejected, and ought to have had the
same predisposition to pursue these degrees
as did the UROP students. The impact of a
structured program may lie in building on
this predisposition and exposing students to
ways they can connect their motivation to
research experience in preparation for
doctorate or professional degree programs.
In a different vein, our findings show
that students who participated in non-UROP
undergraduate research were significantly
more likely than UROP students to remain
in contact with undergraduate faculty after
graduation. Although we do not know
whether these faculty were their research
mentors or other faculty, we can speculate
that students seeking out research oppor-
tunities for themselves may initiate contact
with faculty members whose research
interests are closely aligned to their own, and
also develop academic relationships with
other experts in the field with whom they
did not do research. In UROP first-year and
sophomore undergraduate participants were
interested in research, but perhaps had not
fully defined their particular focus. Because
incoming students refine their interests and
career goals through a multitude of campus
experiences, the UROP program emphasizes
students’ exposure to the research process
and acquisition of research experience.
Instead of students finding a perfect match
for their interests in UROP, they are advised
to take a broad look at the opportunities
available. Thus, there may be great variance
in how much a student’s own interest area
corresponds to their UROP faculty sponsor’s
work, so that not all UROP students may see
their faculty sponsors as long-term mentors
or advisors.
Who Should Be Involved in Under-
graduate Research Opportunities?
Many undergraduate research programs are
targeted toward attracting high-achieving
students to particular college campuses. The
availability of such programs, and the
possibilities of working closely with faculty
on important issues, can significantly affect
a student’s choice of college. In addition,
administrators may believe that research
requires students to have high intellectual
and academic capacity, and that under-
graduate research opportunities, therefore,
should be restricted to students who have
shown such competence, such as students in
honors programs. Our findings indicate that
students from a range of incoming abilities
can benefit from participating in under-
graduate research.
The UROP admissions process was
randomized to include students at all dif-
ferent performance levels. A broad range in
undergraduate academic performance was
probably present across the both the UROP
and the non-UROP students. Some non-
UROP (control) students participated in
other undergraduate research and some did
not, possibly indicating differences in
motivation. We do not know whether the
controls who participated in undergraduate
activities sought out those experiences or
were asked by faculty to participate. In
addition, and most importantly, if there were
differences in motivation to pursue under-
graduate education among the controls in our
study, these differences should also be
evident in the UROP sample because the
sample was randomly selected. Therefore,
some of the UROP students could have had
lower levels of motivation, but they still
evidenced positive benefits of undergraduate
research participation that their graduate
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
education attendance rate was higher in
comparison to that of the control group
students. The findings of this study suggest
that undergraduate research programs have
a common impact on students with dif-
ferent levels of academic performance and
Our findings suggest the importance of
first-year students participating in under-
graduate research, particularly structured
program interventions. The fact that UROP
is a first-year program indicates that the
benefits of such participation are related to
long-term educational pursuits. We do not
know when the students in the non-UROP
research experiences participated in their
undergraduate research, which adds some
support that UROP does have a strong
relationship between first-year student
participation and continued educational
pursuit. One obstacle universities may face
is the possible belief on the part of faculty
that undergraduate students, let alone first-
year undergraduate students, may not be
capable of engaging in the research process.
However, the long-term benefits of first-year
research participation are evident in our
Our findings indicate that undergraduate
research programs may be geared toward
those who have faced, or could potentially
face, barriers to academic opportunities and
success. UROP was originally created to
increase the retention and academic achieve-
ment of underrepresented minority students.
African American, Latino/a, and Native
American students have high attrition rates
both in high school and college (Brower,
1992; Tinto, 1993). An earlier study showed
that UROP was effective in increasing the
retention of African American students
(especially those with low GPAs) and Latino/
as who participated in research during their
sophomore year (Nagda et al., 1998).
Undergraduate research programs can,
therefore, intervene effectively to retain and
promote the success of such students. In this
study, underrepresented students of color
who participated in undergraduate research
were more likely to pursue graduate educa-
tion and to participate in further research
activity than were their nonresearch counter-
parts, both key objectives of UROP. Yet,
among those underrepresented students of
color who did pursue graduate education,
two thirds of the UROP students pursued
doctoral, medical, or law degrees, compared
to one third of the students who did not
participate in undergraduate research and
one third who participated in another form
of undergraduate research. It appears that
UROP underrepresented students of color
were more likely to pursue doctoral and
professional education degrees. Hence,
UROP-type undergraduate research parti-
cipation may close the gap between under-
represented students of color and White and
Asian American students with regard to
doctorate or professional education pursuit.
That is, undergraduate research opportunities
can level the playing field for students who
may potentially be at a disadvantage to
pursue professional education.
Undergraduate research also appears
effective in facilitating relationships with
faculty for underrepresented students of
color as measured by job recommendations
and continued contact with faculty. Under-
represented students of color who parti-
cipated in undergraduate research were
significantly more likely to use faculty for
job recommendations and remain in contact
with faculty after graduation compared to
those who did not participate in under-
graduate research. For White and Asian
American students, this is not the case.
14 Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
Underrepresented students of color often feel
distant from faculty (Fullilove & Treisman,
1990), and these findings suggest that
undergraduate research participation can
facilitate connections between students of
color and their undergraduate faculty.
Implications for Undergraduate
Research Programs and Student
First, both structured and unstructured
programs may be necessary on campuses.
Students who seek out faculty to work with
on their own may do it regardless of the type
of program offered at an institution. A
program with a good reputation on campus,
however, can attract students who may need
added encouragement, support, and more
ready-made choices to help them fully
realize their higher education experience.
Such a program may also meet the needs of
students looking for ways to investigate, in
a structured manner, experiences related to
their academic interests and long-term
academic and career interests.
Second, our findings imply that research
programs can target a diversity of students,
both of different competencies as well as
different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Many programs, both structured (such as
honors programs) and unstructured, may
count on student self-motivation and ability
to negotiate the campus environment on their
own. High academic performance may be
seen to open doors for continued academic
opportunities and future success. These are
important programs on campus and serve a
particular, albeit, small niche of students.
Other campus programs that serve students
who are academically at-risk may be seen
as only remedial. Recent thinking and
research asserts that such programs may not
improve academic performance; instead,
programs that are challenging and push low-
achieving students to engage actively with
the academic material may be far more
successful (Garland & Treisman, 1993;
Fullilove & Treisman, 1990). Our findings
suggest that a structured program such as
UROP may play an important role in chal-
lenging underrepresented students of color
to pursue professional degree programs, such
as law, medical, and doctoral degrees.
Overall, undergraduate research participation
is strongly related to students’ pursuit of
additional education beyond their under-
graduate degrees. Therefore, targeting
students with different academic perfor-
mance levels may be beneficial in terms of
student outcomes.
Our findings have implications for
structured collaboration between academic
and student affairs. UROP supports students’
endeavors in out-of-class academic experi-
ences by providing opportunities to parti-
cipate on faculty research projects, exposing
them to a core value of higher education—
pursuit of knowledge via research. In
addition, UROP’s programmatic student
support may help students to connect what
they learn in the classroom with what they
learn in their research experiences, as well
as to negotiate the demands of the early years
as an undergraduate at a large research
institution. By providing a subenvironment,
UROP helps students to integrate into the
larger academic and social environment at
the university. The creation of a smaller
environment that fosters a sense of belonging
for students may explain how UROP offsets
the negative effect on graduate education
pursuit of attending a large public research
institution cited in the literature (Astin,
1993). Student affairs professionals can use
undergraduate research participation pro-
grams as an avenue to facilitate more
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
structured and sustained faculty-student
interactions. Conversely, undergraduate
research programs can develop partnerships
with student affairs to provide more com-
prehensive support services to their student-
Implications for Future Research
Future research may address the limitations
of this study and the new questions that arise
from its findings. First, though our analyses
suggest that undergraduate research influ-
ences graduate education enrollment, we do
not know the quality of the graduate pro-
grams that these students attended or their
experiences. Did undergraduate student-
researchers attend more competitive gradu-
ate or professional schools than did students
who did not participate in undergraduate
research? Were undergraduate researchers
higher achievers than were undergraduate
nonresearchers in similar graduate pro-
grams? Although we found overall positive
results for any form of undergraduate
research partnership on the pursuit of
postbaccalaureate education, is there a
qualitative difference in the preparation,
performance, and experience of UROP
students compared to non-UROP research
students when they enter the graduate
school? These same questions may help shed
light on the similarities and differences
between students who participate in struc-
tured programs such as UROP and those who
participate in other types of undergraduate
Second, future research can also deter-
mine the role of college entrants’ educational
aspirations and their connection to graduate
education pursuit. Though the undergraduate
research and control students should be
similar in terms of educational aspirations,
we did not specifically control for aspiration
influence on graduate education enrollment.
Research also needs to identify the com-
ponents of the undergraduate research
experience that are influential. We found that
a programmatic research experience and
other research experiences both influenced
graduate education pursuit, but the pro-
grammatic research experience, UROP,
appeared related to students’ choice to
pursue doctoral, medical, or law degrees.
Why this difference? Future research can
identify the components of students’ under-
graduate research experiences, such as what
years in college they did research, through
what means or programs, an assessment of
specific parts of the research experience, and
a ranking of what aspects of college influ-
enced their graduate pursuits. A qualitative
investigation can also look into the students’
own understanding of the influences on their
pursuit of graduate or professional education.
Third, although we used undergraduate
research participation as an indication of
more personalized faculty-student inter-
action, future research is needed to determine
the elements of that interaction that are
related to graduate education and post-
graduate research activity pursuit.
Fourth, although the theoretical model
of the study did not draw upon the literature
regarding mentoring, our findings suggest
that mentoring may indeed be an important
avenue to pursue in future studies. Faculty-
student relationships centered on research
may be conceived of as mentoring relation-
ships. Kram (1983) proposed that such
relationships comprise at least two elements:
career advancement and psychosocial well-
being. Career development may be seen to
include aspects such as supervised research
work, copresenting research, coauthoring
papers, and other career advancing advice
and opportunities. Psychosocial develop-
16 Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
ment may include developing a supportive
relationship, advice on coping with academic
and personal challenges, and enhancing the
mentored student’s self-efficacy in other ac-
tivities. Our analyses have focused squarely
on career development as defined by gradu-
ate education experiences. Future research
can expand on these aspects as well as
explore the psychosocial development
inherent in the mentoring process. This
research can look at students’ competency
development through research, such as the
interpersonal and cognitive skills involved
in doing research and being part of a project
team, their sense of efficacy in academic
situations and problem solving, and the
availability of support networks—and their
use of them—as well as their own experi-
ences of being a support person. Students’
satisfaction in their chosen fields or careers,
their ambitions, and their sense of making
an impact in the world can also be included
among these factors of psychosocial devel-
opment. In addition, future research can
investigate how faculty construct and define
the undergraduate research experiences they
provide for students. Do faculty see under-
graduate research as an important part of a
student’s experience and are they therefore
more likely to mentor students? Do faculty
see undergraduate research as a way to
stimulate interest in their fields? This list is
by no means exhaustive, but is intended to
stimulate thinking about future research
with a mentoring framework to inform
Our findings indicate an overall positive
benefit of undergraduate research parti-
cipation on graduate education pursuit.
Before discussing the findings, however, we
note some limitations to the study. This study
was conducted with graduates from one large
Midwestern research university who parti-
cipated in an undergraduate research pro-
gram. Therefore, the findings may be
specific to the institution and to the specific
organization and implementation of the
undergraduate research program. We do not
know the type, form, or extent of the
research experiences of those students in the
sample who participated in other under-
graduate research not related to the struc-
tured program under investigation. In
addition, we do not know the extent, nature,
and quality of the faculty-student inter-
actions of the students who participated in
UROP or other undergraduate research
experiences. Although we controlled for
incoming motivation to participate in
undergraduate research or graduate edu-
cation pursuit by matching of UROP parti-
cipants and controls at initial application, we
did not specifically measure students’
incoming commitments and interests. An-
other set of limitations is related to assessing
graduate education and research involve-
ment. Survey questions did not ask for
specific graduate programs in which students
were enrolled. Therefore, at this time, we are
not able to determine any distinctions, such
as quality, prestige, and challenge, among
those experiences.
This study, an investigation of the impact of
undergraduate research on graduate edu-
cation and activities, affirms the positive
value of undergraduate research. Such
involvement for undergraduates not only has
positive effects on student retention as found
in an earlier study, but also an enduring
positive impact after graduation. The find-
ings and discussion imply that undergraduate
research programs can significantly increase
their influence by reevaluating their scope,
structure, and audience. The findings support
Undergraduate Research and Postgraduate Education
ideas for structuring programs in ways that
can increase access to research and promote
successful career development for a broad
diversity of students, as well as build on
students’ interests in research upon entry to
college, especially for underrepresented
students of color whose graduate and
professional education aspirations may
otherwise lay dormant.
Our findings also have implications for
the theory and literature on faculty-student
interaction and its effects of students. These
findings suggest that such interaction
extends beyond the immediate time frame
of the undergraduate experience. Faculty-
student interaction around a research ex-
perience appeared to influence not only
undergraduate retention and achievement,
but also enrollment and retention in graduate
education and pursuit of professional aca-
demic fields. This suggests that faculty-
student interaction can be structured around
activities and programs designed to influence
particular outcomes. Undergraduate faculty-
student interaction, which is often cited as
the key to the involvement-integration
outcomes of retention and academic achieve-
ment at the undergraduate level, appears to
encourage students to enroll in graduate and
professional education as well.
Correspondence concerning this article should be
ADDRESS; E-MAIL optional]
1. Graduate education: We were interested in both whether the respondents pursued graduate
education in general, and also the specific type of degree (Master’s, doctorate, professional,
or other).
a. In separate questions, we asked respondents to indicate whether they had attended or
were attending a graduate school. The first variable indicated whether they had pursued
or were pursuing further education (1 = further education, 0 = no further education).
b. The second education variable made a distinction between those who pursued a profes-
sional degree and those who pursued a two-year graduate degree. All respondents who
had already received or were currently on track to receive a professional degree
(doctorate, law, or medical) were coded as 1. Those respondents who had received, or
were in the process of receiving, an equivalent of a two-year graduate degree (master’s,
MBA, or other), or in the process, were coded as 0. (1 = doctorate, law, medical degree,
0 = master’s, MBA, other degree). This variable (professional education), therefore, only
includes those students who had indicated on the first variable that they had received or
were receiving a graduate degree.
2. Current research involvement: We asked if the respondents were currently involved in any
research activities. Respondents could answer yes or no. Space was also provided for them
to describe the type of research activities in which they were engaged.
Contact with faculty: There were two questions of interest to us. Response choices for both
questions were yes and no.
a. One question asked the participants whether they used faculty for job recommendations
(faculty recommendation).
b. Another question asked whether they remained in contact with faculty after graduation
(faculty contact).
Please provide missing infor-
mation : contact author info
18 Journal of College Student Development
Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman
Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college? Four critical
years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bowen, W. G., & Rudenstine, N. L. (1992). In pursuit of
the Ph.D. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University
Brower, A. (1992). The ‘second half’ of student integration.
Journal of Higher Education, 63, 441-462.
Ethington, C. A., & Smart, J. C. (1986). Persistence to
graduate education. Research in Higher Education, 24(3),
Fullilove, R. E., & Treisman, P. U. (1990). Mathematics
achievement among African American undergraduates at
the University of California, Berkeley: An evaluation of
the Mathematics Workshop Program. Journal of Negro
Education, 59(3), 463-478.
Garland, M., & Treisman, P. U. (1993). The mathematics
workshop model: An interview with Uri Treisman.
Journal of Developmental Education, 16(3), 14-16, 18,
20, 22.
Hauptman, A. M. (1986). Students in graduate and
professional education: What we know and need to know.
Washington, DC: The Association of American Uni-
Hearn, J. C. (1987). Impacts of undergraduate experiences
on aspirations and plans for graduate and professional
education. Research in Higher Education, 27(2), 119-141.
Kram, K. E. (1983). Phases of the mentoring relationship.
Academy of Management Journal, 26, 618-625.
Lenning, O. T., & Ebbers, L. H. (1999). The powerful
potential of learning communities: Improving education
for the future. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report
Volume 26, No. 6. Washington, DC: The George
Washington University.
Malaney, G. D., & Isaac, P. D. (1988, Winter). The
immediate post-baccalaureate educational plans of
outstanding undergraduates. College and University,
63(2), 148-161.
Nagda, B.A., Gregerman, S.R., Jonides, J., von Hippel, W.,
& Lerner, J.S. (1998). Undergraduate student-faculty
partnerships affect student retention. The Review of
Higher Education, 22(1), 55-72.
Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How college
affects students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Seymour, E. (1995a). Revisiting the problem iceberg;
Science, mathematics, and engineering students still
chilled out: Examining the causes of student attrition in
science-based fields on a variety of campuses. Journal
of College Science Teaching, 24(6), 392-400.
Seymour, E. (1995b). The loss of women from science,
mathematics, and engineering undergraduate majors: An
explanatory account. Science Education, 79(4), 437-473.
Schapiro, M. O., O’Malley, M. P., & Litten, L. H. (1991).
Progression to graduate school from the “elite” colleges
and universities. Economics of Education Review, 10(3),
Shapiro, N. S., & Levine, J. H. (1999). Creating learning
communities. A practical guide to winning support,
organizing for change, and implementing programs. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Strassburger, J. (1995). Embracing undergraduate research.
American Association of Higher Education (AAHE)
Bulletin, 47, 3-5.
Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A
theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of
Educational Research, 45, 89-125.
Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and
cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago
Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and
cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press.
... A large body of literature has reported both academic and psychosocial benefits as outcomes of in-person UREs. Academically, UREs have been reported to help students achieve a higher level of content knowledge [6], while also improving their eventual career outcomes [7,8]. Psychosocial benefits refer to the positive growth in a student's perceptions, emotions, attitudes, and social dimensions around their academic experiences. ...
... While many studies show these goals are often accomplished through UREs, they do not fully describe why UREs lead to increased retention in STEM among participants. In most studies of URE outcomes, data have been derived from self-reported surveys [8,19] and end-ofprogram formal evaluations [7,8,19,20], while fewer studies have used in-depth multiple interviews [9,11]. Furthermore, most studies have exclusively explored the outcomes of inperson undergraduate research experiences, while rarely focusing on remote research experiences [21]. ...
... While many studies show these goals are often accomplished through UREs, they do not fully describe why UREs lead to increased retention in STEM among participants. In most studies of URE outcomes, data have been derived from self-reported surveys [8,19] and end-ofprogram formal evaluations [7,8,19,20], while fewer studies have used in-depth multiple interviews [9,11]. Furthermore, most studies have exclusively explored the outcomes of inperson undergraduate research experiences, while rarely focusing on remote research experiences [21]. ...
Full-text available
In the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 limited in-person research opportunities and created additional barriers for many students, institutions either canceled or remotely hosted their research experience for undergraduates (REU) programs. The present qualitative phenomenographic study was designed to explore some of the possible limitations, challenges, and outcomes of this remote experience. Overall, 94 interviews were conducted with paired participants; mentees (N=10) and mentors (N=8) from six different REU programs. By drawing on cultural-historical activity theory as a framework, our study uncovers some of the challenges mentees faced while pursuing their research objectives and academic goals. These challenges included motivation, limited access to technology at home, limited communication among REU students, barriers in mentor-mentee relationships, and differing expectations about doing research. Despite the challenges, all mentees reported that this experience was highly beneficial. Comparisons between the outcomes of these remote REUs and published outcomes of in-person undergraduate research programs reveal many similar benefits, including student integration into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics culture. Our study suggests that remote research programs could be considered a means to expand access to undergraduate research experiences even after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.
... Research opportunities improve student retention especially among those most at-risk of dropping out (Gregerman et al. 1998) and generate interest in topics (Russell, Hancock, and McCullough 2007). Research experiences enhance students' understanding of concepts (Ishiyama and Breuning 2003), promotes the ability to think critically, synthesize ideas, learn independently (Becker 2019;Ishiyama 2002), and improves their success after graduation (Mabrouk 2009;Hathaway, Nagda, and Gregerman 2002). Social science research labs have also been shown to promote learning and produce high-quality data (Becker 2019;Glazier and Bowman 2019;Lei and Chuang 2009;Stover 1979). ...
How can we best evaluate if a learning by doing initiative is accomplishing its goals including its priorities in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion? Drawing on my own previously co-authored published work (Nonnemacher and Sokhey 2022), I discuss how diversity and inclusion goals inspired the creation of an undergraduate research lab at a large flagship state university. Studio Lab was created to match research mentors with undergraduate students who work as paid research assistants at the University of Colorado Boulder. In 2020 Studio Lab began in the Department of Political Science, in 2021 it expanded to the Division of Social Sciences, and in 2022 it expanded to the College of Arts & Sciences. I present suggestions for those wishing to advance similar initiatives. I then focus on the DEI goals associated with the lab and provide a template for evaluating whether these goals are being met.
Undergraduate research is commonly performed in many STEM disciplines and has a wide array of benefits for students, laboratories, principal investigators, and institutions. While many fields have assessed best practices and the cost-benefit analysis of incorporating undergraduates in research, this has not yet been addressed in biomechanics. This paper represents the perspectives of seven members of the American Society of Biomechanics (ASB) Teaching Biomechanics Interest Group (TBIG). These TBIG members discussed their own experience regarding the opportunities, challenges, and benefits of undergraduate research and this perspective paper presents the commonalities found during these interactions. The TBIG members reported that undergraduate research was assessed similarly to graduate student research, which often led to an underestimation of productivity for both the student and overall lab output. While undergraduate researchers are not often responsible for publications and grant funding, they are instrumental in lab productivity in other ways, such as through human subject approvals, conference abstract presentations, student thesis projects, and more. Students benefit from these experiences, not necessarily by continuing in research, but by learning skills and making connections which further them in any career. While this perspective presents the experience of seven professors in the United States, future studies should further assess the cost-benefit relationship of working with undergraduates in biomechanics research on a global scale. A clearer picture of this analysis could benefit students, faculty, and administrators in making difficult decisions about lab productivity and assessment.
Full-text available
Undergraduate research is a high-impact educational practice that helps students develop essential professional and personal skills. These skills include tangible field methods and lab techniques, critical thinking, effective communication, integrated and complex problem-solving, metacognition, self-confidence, collegiality, information literacy, and identity development. Participation in undergraduate research experiences increases academic performance, program retention, degree completion, and the number and diversity of students pursuing postbaccalaureate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees. Mentors (faculty, postdoctoral fellow, and graduate students) also benefit from the undergraduate research process by generating publishable scholarship, improvement in leadership skills, and developing rich personal mentoring relationships. Further, a university or college itself benefits from increased institutional reputation and visibility within the scientific community. Nonetheless, many barriers impede students from pursuing research experiences, including a lack of awareness of research opportunities, unfamiliarity with the benefits of a research experience, personal or financial constraints, noncompetitive grade point averages, financial and family needs, maturity, and imposter syndrome. To help mitigate these issues and build a culture of undergraduate research, pathways for implementing undergraduate research in the field of mammalogy are discussed, in addition to advice on mentorship.
We implemented an authentic research experience as part of the invertebrate paleontology course at University of North Carolina Wilmington to promote student learning objectives related to understanding course content, critical thinking, problem solving, and oral and written communication. This semester-long research project, worth 20% of the course grade, is incorporated into the laboratory component of the course, and employs best practices of active and collaborative learning. Students work as teams to develop and test paleoecological and/or evolutionary hypotheses using field-collected or archived bulk samples. Following sample processing, specimen identification, and data collecting and analysis, students write a research paper using the format of a professional paper, with individually and team-written parts, and present their results orally. After completion, one or more abstracts based on the results are submitted to a professional meeting. Typically, several students attend the meeting and present the posters. This approach allows students to experience authentic research from conception to dissemination. Since 2003, the course has been offered seven times, resulting in 13 published and presented abstracts. Over half the students remained involved in paleontology following the course by presenting the work or taking additional courses or independent study, demonstrating that the experience was received positively. This approach provides a model for other instructors, as the research project can be adapted to a variety of geological settings and topics. Successes and challenges in implementing such a project are discussed.
Full-text available
A primary goal of undergraduate education is to provide a comprehensive and diverse educational experience to prepare and promote student success in their professional and personal pursuits. Increased academic success and program connectivity have been demonstrated when undergraduate students are engaged in research early in their degree programs. Despite the known benefits of undergraduates engaging in research, there are challenges associated with conducting undergraduate research programs. Reported barriers include the lack of student knowledge about research methods, lack of preparedness, and lack of student identification and understanding of their specific interests which may not facilitate research ideas and affinity to conduct research. Additional challenges are related to the lack of faculty resources (e.g., time, specific equipment, research space, etc.), the ability to train and supervise undergraduates who may have very limited or no research experience and those students who are true beginners lacking foundational skills. Moreover, involving, engaging, and supporting underrepresented students (e.g., first-generation college students, females, ethnic minorities) in undergraduate research experiences can require different approaches for mentors to be effective. The “Engaging Undergraduate Students in Research” workshop was organized by the Vice Presidents of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Research and Education Divisions at the ASHS 2022 Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, USA. The workshop featured three speakers who described their experiences engaging undergraduate students in research. After each speaker provided comments for ≈5 minutes, the workshop attendees self-selected into three breakout groups with the speakers for roundtable discussions related to engaging students in research through coursework, engaging students via formal research projects, and engaging underrepresented students in research. After the breakout group discussions, a summary was given by each group, and whole group discussions and comments were facilitated. This is a summary of the information discussed and shared during the workshop, along with information that can assist faculty with developing and implementing undergraduate research experiences.
Full-text available
Full-text available
This article evaluates the impact of a program promoting student-faculty research partnerships on college student retention. The program, built on the premise that successful retention efforts integrate students into the core academic mission of the university, targets first-year and sophomore undergraduates. Findings of a participant-control group design show that the research partnerships are most effective in promoting the retention of students at greater risk for college attritionÑAfrican American students and students with low GPAs.
Uri Treisman describes the development of his model to help minority students succeed and progress in mathematics, emphasizing group work and integrated instruction and student services. Explains his influences, core ideas informing the workshop model, structural impediments to success in the curriculum, existing programs, and other related topics. (DMM)