Specialized training benefits young STEM researchers

September 12, 2019

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- The First-year Research Immersion (FRI) program at Binghamton University, State University of New York has proven that young college students are capable of leading real research. And according to a new study, students in FRI do better when the instructors who oversee their projects are provided extra training.

FRI is a three-semester program that allows STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students at Binghamton to use their classroom knowledge in research projects. Research educators oversee the students' projects, while also teaching and coaching them.

"Given the national initiative to transform undergraduate science education, a key element of that is to provide at least some course-based research experience to every science and engineering major," said Nancy Stamp, founding director of FRI.

Stamp, along with now-current director Megan Fegley, designed a professional development training program for research educators. In new articles in the journal Microbiology Letters, they described the role of research educators and how a detailed training program guided them in their novel role. The overall goal in training research educators was to make FRI students more confident and knowledgeable in research.

"We saw that research educators needed specific help, such as with developing students' professional skills -- teamwork, collaboration, public speaking," Stamp said. "Subsequently, students reported greater learning and more benefits from the courses."

The program consisted of training 10 research educators, all of whom were recent PhD graduates in science and engineering. Though the research educators had thorough experience with research, they did not have previous experience teaching large numbers of students. 

Before the start of the semester, the research educators were brought together to learn skills in the following areas:Research educators met each week to share their challenges, as well as what was working for them. Through that process, they advised and motivated each other. 

"Our weekly team meetings helped the research educators reflect on and describe how they have grown professionally, and the role that FRI had in that," wrote the researchers. 

By the end of the FRI program, the participating students presented their research to faculty sponsors and research faculty members. In response, the faculty members were excited to see what was coming next. 

"Faculty sponsors and even other research faculty were enthusiastic about these students joining their lab groups," wrote the researchers.

"We try to be a team and help each other," said Caitlin Light, a research educator in FRI. "I think the way that research educators can come in and adapt to this unique teaching role is evidence of our training and supportive learning community."
The papers, "Role of Research Educator in Sequential Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience Program" and "Training Program for Research Educators of Sequential Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences," were published in FEMS Microbiology Letters.

Binghamton University

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.