Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
FINDING THE RIGHT MATCH: PAIRING UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH INTERNS AND SCIENTISTS AS A WAY OF ENGAGING STUDENTS IN THEIR TOPIC OF INTEREST
In the SOARS and RESESS summer internship programs, which focus on the atmospheric and Earth sciences respectively, interns have reported that the opportunity to work on a topic that they perceive as interesting was critical in their becoming engaged in their research. In our internship programs, we work to match interns with project topics that interest them. Initially this is done by having new interns select from a list of topics, and then through follow-up conversations with them. To find projects, we solicit applications from community scientists to be mentors. In their applications, community scientists describe potential projects. In other cases, we search for mentors who work in the area of the intern's interest, and ask if they would be willing to mentor an intern for the summer. Our mentors are usually affiliated with UCAR, the University of Colorado, the USGS, UNAVCO, and sometimes other agencies or educational institutions. The mentors also evaluate the intern's course background to determine if they have the academic foundation necessary for the proposed project. The match-making process requires care and is vital to the success of the intern-mentor relationship, and impacts both the intern and mentor. In some cases, the intern realizes through the course of doing the research that they do not want to pursue that field of study, or the mentor identifies areas in which the student is lacking skills, both of which are valuable information for the student. In most cases, interns decide to pursue their area of research beyond the summer program. Many of our interns go on to study the same subdiscipline of atmospheric or Earth science in graduate school, by which time they have developed skills relevant to the field, a deeper understanding of the topic, and a rich network of mentors and peers.