Enhancing Research in the Chemical Sciences at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions. Recommendations of a Recent Undergraduate Research Summit
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Chemical Education Today
468 Journal of Chemical Education Vol. 81 No. 4 April 2004 www.JCE.DivCHED.org
Association Report: CUR
Enhancing Research in the Chemical Sciencesat Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions
Recommendations of a Recent Undergraduate Research Summitby Kerry K. Karukstis and Thomas J. Wenzel
The focus of the Council on Undergraduate Research(CUR) is to promote undergraduate studentfaculty collabo-rative research at predominantly undergraduate institutions(PUIs). Considerable discussion of the on-going challengesfacing research-active PUI faculty has occurred recently withinthe Chemistry Division of CUR. These conversations weresparked by the comprehensive study of the research environ-ment in the natural sciences at PUIs published in AcademicExcellence: The Sourcebook (1). This analysis expressed con-cern that PUIs have not responded quickly enough to thechanging landscape of higher education and research. Thechanging demographics of our students, the increasingly in-terdisciplinary nature of research questions, the growing com-plexity of scientific investigations that require more extensivecollaborations, and the rapid pace of technical discoveries andadvances are challenges faced by all scientists. Nevertheless,faculty members at PUIs experience these challenges evenmore acutely as a consequence of some of the unique fea-tures and responsibilities of their institutions.
In response to these concerns, an Undergraduate Re-search Summit, supported by the National Science Founda-tion, was held at Bates College in August of 2003 to examineissues involved in undertaking and sustaining research at PUIsand to provide recommendations on how to enhance theamount, quality, productivity, and visibility of chemistry re-search at PUIs. Chaired by Thomas Wenzel (Bates College)and co-convened by Robert Lichter (Merrimack Consultants),the summit was organized by a steering committee that fa-cilitated the discussion by writing a series of ten white pa-pers on various undergraduate research issues (2). Whitepapers addressed topics such as defining undergraduate re-search, assessment of undergraduate research, the value ofdiversity within the chemical sciences, designing a research-supportive curriculum, the value of collaborations, the im-portance of an appropriate infrastructure to support research,initiating and sustaining research productivity over an aca-demic career, and the potential barriers to undergraduate re-search at public comprehensive institutions.
The summit was attended by about 50 participants, anda report will be issued in the Spring of 2004 (3). In additionto having six CUR chemistry councilors on the summit steer-ing committee, the CUR chemistry division is assisting inthe dissemination of the report through various workshopsheld at national and regional conferences throughout 2004.
Recommendations and conclusions in the final reportare aimed at individuals, departments, institutions, fundingagencies, and other organizations with an interest in under-graduate research. Key points covered in the report include:
Research done by undergraduates should represent anoriginal contribution to the discipline, and successfulprojects are intended for publication in peer-reviewedjournals.
Assessment of undergraduate research is necessary toidentify effective practices.
Involvement in undergraduate research is one poten-tial mechanism to recruit and retain members of his-torically underrepresented groups to chemistry.
The development of a research-supportive curriculumrecognizes that ample time and opportunities must beprovided for students to undertake research.
The increasing reliance on collaborations and partner-ships to conduct complex scientific investigations re-quires PUI faculty to clearly define their individualcontributions and calls for departments, institutions,and funding agencies to recognize the value of suchcollaborative projects.
All constituenciesfaculty, departments, and institu-tionshave a vital role in establishing a culture of un-dergraduate research on campus.
An important feature is that many of the reports recommen-dations can be implemented without the need for additionalresources, but instead represent changes in individual, depart-mental, and institutional practices.
Initial symposia on the outcomes of the summit havebeen held at the Gordon Research Conference on Chemis-try Education Research and Practice in January 2004 and theAnnual Meeting of the Association of American Colleges andUniversities in January 2004. Three symposia, offeredthrough the ACS Division of Chemical Education, were heldat the National Meeting of the American Chemical Societyin March of 2004. These symposia were organized under the
Chemical Education Today
www.JCE.DivCHED.org Vol. 81 No. 4 April 2004 Journal of Chemical Education 469
edited byKerry Karukstis
Harvey Mudd CollegeClaremont, CA 91711
heading, Research at Primarily Undergraduate Institutionsand focused on: partnerships, faculty vitality, and providingthe appropriate infrastructure.
The Tenth National Conference of CUR (CrossingBoundaries: Innovations in Undergraduate Research), hostedby the University of WisconsinLa Crosse, June 2326, 2004,will offer another opportunity to discuss the recommenda-tions from the summit. In keeping with the theme of theconference, the Chemistry Division of CUR will hold a work-shop titled Undergraduate Research in Chemistry InvolvingPartnerships. The role that partnerships can play in diversi-fying the chemical sciences, generating ideas, and conduct-ing cutting-edge research will be examined. Ways to initiateand sustain partnerships will be highlighted in this session.The opening plenary session will focus on current and fu-ture challenges in undergraduate research. To complementthis plenary session, another Chemistry Division workshop,Outcomes from the Undergraduate Research Summit onChemistry, will respond to current and future challenges ofconducting research in chemistry at PUIs. Finally, summitparticipants will offer two workshops, Curricular Structuresto Support Undergraduate Research and Sustaining ResearchProductivity Throughout an Academic Career, that will fo-cus on recommendations in the summit report; the summit
Web site will be updated periodically to announce additionalconferences and workshops that will serve as opportunitiesto discuss outcomes of the initiative (4).
1. Doyle, Michael P., Ed. Academic Excellence: The Sourcebook, AStudy on the Role of Research in the Physical Sciences at Under-graduate Institutions; Research Corporation: Tucson, AZ, 2000.
2. Find the white papers for the Undergraduate Research Sum-mit at http://abacus.bates.edu/acad/depts/chemistry/twenzel/white_papers.html (accessed Jan 2004).
3. Find details on the publication of the final report at the Un-dergraduate Research Summit Web site: http://abacus.bates.edu/acad/depts/chemistry/twenzel/summit.html (accessed Feb 2004).
4. Find dissemination information at http://abacus.bates.edu/acad/depts/chemistry/twenzel/dissemination_activities.html (accessed Jan2004).
Kerry K. Karukstis is in the Dept. of Chemistry, HarveyMudd College, Claremont, CA 91711; Kerry_Karukstis@hmc.edu. Thomas J. Wenzel is in the Dept. of Chemistry, BatesCollege, Lewiston, ME 04240; firstname.lastname@example.org.