UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH – COMPARE AND CONTRAST BEST PRACTICES BETWEEN SPAIN AND THE UNITED STATES
Recognizing the need to create an educational environment bringing teaching and research together lead educators in the United States to initiate research activities at the undergraduate level. Beginning in Fall, 1969 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which invited all of its undergraduate students to join the professional research activities of the faculty, the movement to include research experiences into classrooms has expanded to include campuses across the United States. One of the products of this movement was the National Science Foundation establishing, in 1987, the first Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. Recently, the issue of introducing undergraduates to research activities has been introduced at various international campuses. In this report the authors compare and contrast the processes and procedures between undergraduate research programs in Spain and in the United States. Our motivation is to move the discussion to a global level in order to adapt best methodologies for introducing research into classrooms from around the world. In this rapidly expanding global culture, it is even more crucial that we encourage our undergraduates to continue their education into research careers. This is especially critical for students whose interest is in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEMS) programs.
Recognizing the expanding international workforce necessary to conduct research in the 21st century, and understanding that there is a serious dearth of undergraduate students choosing to continue their education in graduate school and research programs, the authors' launched investigations into the best practices for the introduction of research to undergraduates. Studies in the United States have shown that students introduced to research early in their career have a more positive attitude towards research and are more likely to continue on to graduate programs. The expectations are there will be similar results on the international level.
In this study, we documented general trends in integrating undergraduate research into the curriculum in both countries. We also give several specific examples of programs that encourage undergraduate research, both at the local and federal levels. We will include a short discussion of the trend to integrate undergraduate research into institutions; how students are chosen and why; costs and benefits for mentors and the current state of undergraduate research in both countries.
Based on the authors' experiences within the United States, early intervention with students is the key to a successful career in the STEM disciplines. Similar results from Spanish and other European campuses indicate that undergraduate research is now an international movement.