Research Experiences for Undergraduates
The UT Arlington REU Site on Hazard Mitigation brings together a total of 30 engineering bound undergraduate students (10 per year for 3 years) from several community colleges and universities with limited research opportunities. The community colleges are in the Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) metropolitan area, while the universities are in Texas and other states. The community college partners are Tarrant County College Southeast Campus, Eastfield Community College, Richland College, and Baton Rouge Community College. The universities are: UT Arlington, Texas A&M University – Kingsville, St. Mary’s University, University of Southern Mississippi, Wesleyan University, MIT, Ohio State University and Grambling State University.
The common theme of the REU site is Hazard Mitigation. A total of five research projects are included for student participation. The projects are sub-sets of larger funded research projects that are ongoing or have been recently completed by faculty researchers. Each project also is a part of the ongoing UTA RET Site on Hazard Mitigation. Further, they all tie in to the Disaster Mitigation Group at UT Arlington, a multi-disciplinary effort of faculty members and public and private sectors. The Disaster Mitigation Group of researchers at UT Arlington is a multi-disciplinary group of 23 faculty members, who have generated about $7 million in hazard-related research funding and about 150 hazard-related publications. The umbrella organization brings together and fosters the activities and talents of faculty with external agencies. The proposed REU effort is headed by Drs. Nur Yazdani and Yvette Pearson Weatherton from the Civil Engineering Department, and Dr. Stephanie Daza from the Education Department at UT Arlington, and includes a total of five other faculty members, several graduate students, and the REU student researchers. The multi-disciplinary group of REU faculty members comes from civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, and education.
The projects for the proposed REU site are designed to recruit undergraduate students from engineering and related sciences and introduce them to engineering research. Involvement in hands-on computer and laboratory research experiences is expected to improve recruitment of students from the above-mentioned institutions, retention of current engineering students and motivate them towards graduate studies. There are many reasons for the lack of student interest in engineering fields, including students’ perceptions of coursework as overly theoretical. Our REU Site will allow them hands-on experiences in hazard mitigation research and applications.
Objectives and Outcomes
The objectives of the REU project are to (1) recruit students into, and retain students in, four-year engineering programs through graduation; (2) encourage participants to pursue graduate degrees in engineering and (3) expose participants to practical applications of engineering research. These objectives will be achieved through the planned activities whose effectiveness are determined by the success of the following associated measurable outcomes:
- Recruitment and Retention – This REU program will aid in and/or bolster recruitment and retention in engineering degree programs. While the investigators realize that tracking students from several schools presents a challenge, every effort will be made to do so. An online system is available whereby students can self-report data through information forms and surveys. The information form allows students to update contact information to facilitate further tracking. Pre- and post- surveys, as well as qualitative data, is assessing the impact of the REU program in influencing participant decisions to enter and/or remain in an engineering program through graduation.
- Pursuit of Graduate Degrees – Participants in the REU will enroll, and/or indicate their intention to enroll, in engineering graduate programs. The online system (described above) is tracking and surveying REU participants in order to report their enrollment in engineering graduate programs. Pre- and post- surveys, as well as qualitative data, is assessing the impact of the REU program in influencing participant decisions to enroll in engineering graduate programs.
- Practical Applications of Engineering Research – REU participants will demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge gained through the research experiences to “real world” problems. REU participants are given opportunities to demonstrate their ability to apply knowledge gained through the REU projects. Pre- and post- surveys, as well as qualitative data, is assessing the impact of the REU program in influencing participants’ ability to apply the knowledge to problems encountered in other research environments, graduate school and/or in industry. Because many students engage in internship opportunities, this data will be collected as the students continue their undergraduate matriculation as well as after graduation.