This presentation will highlight the findings from the first two years of an NSF-funded research experience for undergraduate (REU) program located in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Louisiana State University (LSU). The authors noticed in recent years that many undergraduate students avoid enrolling in graduate school because they believe the only path for someone with a Ph.D. in engineering is as a faculty member. To address this limitation, the authors have developed a 10-week program that couples traditional research-related activities with training in entrepreneurship. The concept was to show students how both fundamental and applied research can lead to start-up companies, patents, and industrial partnerships. Additionally, in the part of the country where LSU is located, there are numerous small universities and colleges that do not offer research programs for undergraduates, so this REU site is a rare opportunity for these students to perform undergraduate research. The research theme for this program is energy: specifically, catalysis, energy storage, and biofuels due to the pronounced expertise in these areas at LSU. A major strength of this REU program is the partnership with the LSU Business & Technology Center which provides the REU students with training in technology transfer fundamentals and how to pitch scientific ideas to non-scientists. In addition to the entrepreneurship training, the program offers weekly seminars in ethics, effective presenting, applying to graduate school, industrial safety, and topical seminars related to three main research areas of the programs. The students were assessed individually (weekly reports), by their mentors (electronic survey three times during the 10 weeks), and by an external evaluator (portfolios). The overwhelming response from the students was positive with many learning about new opportunities for someone with a Ph.D. degree. To date, the program has been offered during the summer of 2016 and the summer of 2017 with a total of 19 students participating in the program mentored by 11 different faculty members from three different engineering departments (chemical, biological, and environmental). Of the three students that have graduated from their undergraduate institutions, two have enrolled in post-graduate training further demonstrating the effectiveness of the program.
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