DEVELOPMENT OF A COOPERATIVE INTERNATIONAL UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH PROGRAM
In this report we outline the processes and procedures necessary for a successful international undergraduate research program. The Program is collaboration between Bucknell University (BU) and the University of Cádiz (UCA) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The research program lasts for ten weeks, nine of which are in residence in Cádiz. The students are recruited from a national search across the United States with particular attention given to academic excellence and previous chemistry laboratory experience. This endeavor, while unique in several ways, can also serve as a model for other undergraduate research collaborations.
Recognizing the expanding international workforce necessary to conduct research in the 21st century, the Directors of the Project developed a program of research, based on projects that are highly interdisciplinary while being self-contained. Not only do these projects prepare the selected students for careers in science, they also provide invaluable professional experience outside the United States. Students forge long-term international relationships.
In developing the project, the Directors were involved with structuring timetables of activities, organization of mentors, objectives for each student, and evaluation of outcomes. Logistics such as student housing, transportation, and language had to be addressed. The premise of the program was to develop a unique research experience for US students at UCA.
Selection of mentors was critical; for several students, this is their first true research experience. Mentors had to be willing to donate a large portion of their time to working with the students. A key component to success was the development of weekly objectives for each student. Working with the coordinator, the mentors developed objectives each week. Along with the past week’s objectives, these were discussed with individual students. Students were kept apprised of expectations and their progress in the lab.
Reflective of the international nature of the program, additional activities were developed which enabled students to have a common experiences outside the lab: One was the development of a short, semi-intensive Spanish class; Several group dinners were planned which provided a much-wanted taste of home; To experience the local culture and strengthen group relationships, regular group outings where available.
Finally, evaluations for the program were constructed. Weekly meetings with the program coordinator were required. Student lab notebooks were checked and progress discussed. Personal journals/blogs were also required as a qualitative means of evaluation. Additional assessment included a pre- and post- test; the SURE II test upon returning home; and a research colloquium where unaffiliated faculty and students gave feedback on the research. Mentors were also required to give feedback at the end of the program. One clear outcome is that the Directors expect several of the students will be co-authors on peer-reviewed journal articles as well as presenting their research at regional, national and international conferences.