GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 364-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


STEMPIEN, Jennifer A., Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2200 Colorado Ave, Boulder, CO 80309 and ABBOTT, Lon D., Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, UCB 399, Boulder, CO 80309,

Research shows that undergraduate student participation in authentic research opportunities (ARO) enhances persistence in STEM fields by strengthening student perceptions of themselves as scientists. Longitudinal studies show that students who participated in an ARO, including members of underrepresented groups, were 14-17% more likely to persist in STEM fields on to graduate school compared with their colleagues who did not. Yet, these same studies pointed out that the designs of many such research programs have shortcomings that can inhibit wider student participation or even reduce student persistence in the sciences. We have been piloting a collaborative multi-semester undergraduate research community ARO design that combines the benefits of the faculty-student mentoring and apprenticeship characteristics of an individual research experience with the peer mentoring and guided discussion of a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) with the goal of addressing a large-scale geologic question: When did the American Southwest achieve its present elevation?

Each student participating in the ARO: 1) conducts a research project with a researcher or faculty member that stands alone but that addresses in some way the shared large-scale research question and 2) participates in an ongoing weekly scientific literature and research seminar course that examines the recent (last 65 million years) geologic evolution of Colorado and the American Southwest. Seminar participation promotes each student’s role as a peer mentor and a collaborator in answering a larger research question. We discuss the model of the multi-semester ARO and present preliminary data on attitude changes towards persisting in research among eleven participants, sophomores through seniors, after two semesters in the ARO. We argue that this hybrid model is an effective way to 1) encourage students to consider research earlier in their college career, 2) include students not accepted or not considering applying for individual research opportunities, 3) authentically represent the pace of research and 4) build a sustained long-term, supportive community among students, faculty, and university researchers.