Abstract for REU Site: Research Experience for Undergraduates. Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Clarkson University, Stefan J. Grimberg, 0452789

This grant renews the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site at Clarkson University. This program brings students interested in basic science and engineering to Clarkson University to share their perspectives on solving complex environmental problems through research in environmental science and engineering. Eight or nine outstanding undergraduate students each year conduct research on campus for a 10-week intensive summer research experience. The objectives of the program are: __ To provide students who are traditionally underrepresented in environmental science and engineering with an opportunity to conduct independent research; __ To teach these students how to conduct meaningful environmental research and communicate the results of that research to professional colleagues and the general public; __ To communicate to students the importance of graduate school as an integral part of the educational preparation leading to successful careers in science and engineering; __ To demonstrate why synthetic, integrative research is necessary for understanding and solving complex environmental problems, and thus why multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to environmental science and engineering are so important; __ To improve students'skills in analyzing and solving complex problems by working within teams comprised of diverse members, in terms of individual perspectives and disciplinary expertise.

Intellectual Merit. The primary component of the program is the completion of a research project on a complex environmental problem. Undergraduates are assigned a self-contained aspect of a larger research project and work with graduate students and faculty in the Departments of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Aeronautical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and Biology to complete their projects. Students are matched with these faculty based on the interests and abilities of the students and the research priorities of the faculty. Dissemination of the research results is emphasized; all students participate in research group meetings, write a report, and present their work at a University-wide undergraduate research symposium. They are encouraged to publish their work in peer-reviewed publications.

Interdisciplinary seminars are held once a week to introduce students to concepts of sustainable management of complex environmental systems and of the systems approach to understanding and solving environmental problems. Students integrate at least two sustainable-management concepts or processes into their individual research projects. Additional seminars that cover the conduct of sound research and aspects of post-graduate study add breadth to the students' experience. Also included in the program are several community-building activities designed to foster cohesiveness among the students as a multicultural group and to enhance their appreciation for environmental research. Assessment of the program includes continual evaluation and improvement of the program to ensure that the stated objectives are achieved.

Broader Impacts. A major objective of the program is to attract underrepresented students to continued study of engineering at the post-graduate level and particularly to reach students who would not otherwise be exposed to the possibility of a career in research. Students are recruited to this REU program through poster and electronic mailings to more than 400 institutions and through the program's web site. Of the 68 students supported by the prior REU grant to Clarkson, 53% were women and 10% African Americans or from Puerto Rico. Only 12 of the 68 students were Clarkson undergraduates; the remaining 56 came from schools spanning the US, from Connecticut to California. Results from the analysis of pre- and post-surveys indicate that the program provides the students with an appreciation of research and that most participants decide to pursue graduate education. It is expected that this productivity will continue under in the current grant and will thus contribute to the Nation's technical manpower.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Esther Bolding
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Clarkson University
United States
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