Published in Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings, Volume 684E, Spring April 1, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Materials Research Society.
Each year, U.S. institutions grant well over 10,000 bachelor's degrees in science and engineering. However, only a small fraction of those students pursue graduate study. Many who do often experience great difficulty partly due to a lack of preparation for research: the nature of research is inherently foreign to those who are accustomed to studying course material and demonstrating their mastery of it by passing an exam. Carefully involving undergraduates in research can be an effective means for inspiring students to pursue graduate study. We have found that one can create a positive research experience for the student by implementing simple techniques. In this presentation, we present these practical techniques which include: Defining a manageable undergraduate research project; marketing the project to undergraduates; enabling effective record keeping in laboratory notebooks; focusing and directing research through efficient experimental designs. Along with these techniques, we will present examples-taken mainly from our Polymer Electronics Laboratory. We will also present the inherent pitfalls associated with these techniques.
Electrical and Computer Engineering