Using Pre-College Research to Promote Student Success and Increase the Number of Science Majors
Shields, G. C. Using Pre-College Research to Promote Student Success and Increase the Number of Science Majors. CUR Q. 2010, 31 (1), 43-47.
Undergraduate research is an American invention (Doyle 1992, Hunter 2007). Opportunities to participate in undergraduate research have been shown to increase students' understanding of science, confidence in their ability to conduct scientific research, awareness of PhD training, and interest in obtaining a PhD (Bauer and Bennett 2003, Hunter, Laursen and Seymour 2007, Russell, Hancock and McCullough 2007, Seymour et al. 2004). In addition, research has demonstrated that mentors who combine enthusiasm with individual attention to their undergraduate researchers are essential for enhancing the most positive outcomes of undergraduate research (Cech 1999, Hunter, Laursen and Seymour 2007, Russell, Hancock and McCullough 2007). In fact, the SRI International study of undergraduate research commissioned by NSF surveyed close to 15,000 respondents, and the authors concluded that â€œthe inculcation of enthusiasm is the key elementâ€”and the earlier the betterâ€ (Russell, Hancock and McCullough 2007). Yet fewer research opportunities exist for first-year students than for juniors and seniors (Hurtado et al. 2008). We report here on a project that has been highly effective in encouraging and retaining science and mathematics majors at Hamilton College. In this project we brought students who had just finished high school into a research laboratory for a five-week research experience prior to matriculation at Hamilton. Students participated in research projects in eight fieldsâ€”computational chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry, chemical physics, neuroscience, and physics.