Twenty-first century scientists and engineers must possess skills that enable them to reach beyond the laboratory, across disciplines and into communities to identify issues and develop solutions that increase both resilience and sustainability. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award in the Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) Track to the University of Georgia will pilot an approach adapted from health sciences training to provide newly matriculating doctoral students with targeted skills training. The results of this pilot study will advance our understanding of the impact of early, immersive professional development on the contributions that students can make to research during their graduate studies, as well as longer term impact on career placement and success.

The goals of this project are to: 1) determine key considerations in transferring this pedagogical model from the health professions, in which it was established, to broad STEM domains; 2) determine the effect of providing skills training at the beginning of a student?s graduate career; and 3) develop best practices for sustainably implementing the model, should it prove to be effective in this context. Students participating in this pilot will engage initially in an eight-week summer boot camp before their first semester of graduate studies to help them develop targeted transferable professional skills in collaboration, leadership, and community engagement. They will progress to a first-semester Challenge Course in which they will work in small, multidisciplinary teams on a real problem identified in partnership with a Georgia community. Faculty mentors will use a modified challenge-based learning format to guide students through this process so that the process is internalized and carried forward meaningfully in the context of their own research. As students progress through the program, they will further hone their skills and apply their knowledge as they mentor more junior graduate students. Data will be collected to examine the model impact, both on the participating students as well as on the labs in which they work.

The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, potentially transformative, and scalable models for STEM graduate education training. The Innovations in Graduate Education Track is dedicated solely to piloting, testing, and evaluating novel, innovative, and potentially transformative approaches to graduate education.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Graduate Education (DGE)
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Laura Regassa
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University of Georgia
United States
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