This REU site adopted an interdisciplinary and balanced approach as a guiding principle, and provided fundamental research training to 33 REU participants in emerging energy technologies in the last three years. The REU site was designed to offer REU participants an opportunity to gain new insights and knowledge in the broad spectrum of energy challenges and to provide an in-depth research experience in the following areas: 1) renewable energy; 2) clean conventional energy; 3) energy policy, environmental and social impacts.
The REU site is interdisciplinary in nature and focused on different aspects of sustainable energy research. REU participants conducted research for 10 weeks during the summer session. The REU site provided initial orientation and training on how to conduct research, followed by a period of intensive research experience under the mentorship of a faculty and a graduate student. In order to enhance REU participants’ understanding and to broaden their perspective of energy systems challenges, they were given ample opportunities to share their research progress with the other REU participants in formal and informal settings. Weekly seminars were also provided to the REU participants to cover different research topics, technical writing skills, effective presentation skills, professional ethics, graduate school applications, etc. Since the REU participants spent most of their time to interact with the PIs of the REU site, faculty mentors and graduate students who advising their research projects, how to balance the roles of PIs, faculty mentors, and graduate students is also important for increasing the impacts of REU experience on those REU participants.
In order to answer this question of “How to Increase the impacts of REU experience,” different evaluation and assessment methods were implemented in the last three years. Surveys were conducted to collect feedbacks from REU participants (pre and post surveys), faculty mentors, and graduate students. A follow-up phone interview was conducted by an external evaluator around November every year to further collect REU participants’ feedbacks. All the questions listed in the surveys were designed coordinately, so that the data can be compared during the analysis process.
In this paper, the authors will present detailed analysis results based on all survey data in the last three years, and will discuss different approaches on increasing the impacts of REU experiences in this interdisciplinary REU site. Quantitative and qualitative analysis methods will be used to compare the effects of different approached implanted in the REU site. Meanwhile, the REU site implemented both individual project setting (one REU participant working with one faculty) and team project setting (two REU participants working with one faculty). Their effects on the impacts of REU experiences will also be investigated and discussed in this paper.
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