METHODS, PERSPECTIVES AND ASSESSMENT OF PURE AND APPLIED MINERALOGICAL UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH: A CRITICAL EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITY
Examples of field based work, laboratory work, and development of intellectual property are presented. One method of engagement is presented where students are first introduced to noncommittal experiences outside of the classroom (usually field trips or demonstrations of analytical equipment), followed by intermittent discussion of student interests over a period of weeks or even months. This is followed by presentation of a few project choices which are well defined and have clear and attainable outcomes for the student and faculty. Clear goals and intellectual products are stipulated and schedules are set, the importance of excelling in the project is emphasized and the project is executed in close communication with the faculty member.
A survey of participants in mineralogical undergraduate research indicates that students feel the primary benefits are being equipped with more intellectual tools for graduate school and career paths than contemporaries without research experience. Students generally indicate that undergraduate research should be required and should begin during the window between the second semester of the sophomore year and the second semester of the junior year. Students generally indicate class credit of 6 to 12 semester hours should be assigned. Students recognize the need for background built by class work before engaging in research however, many feel early engagement at some level, such as in the freshman year, is very beneficial. Many students indicate that they would rather trade research experience for college requirements that are not in their major. Student opinions as to why undergraduate research is not more widely executed include competing requirements for classes, lack of opportunities or lack of knowledge of existing opportunities and lack of financial resources of an institution.