Undergraduate students who participate in hands-on research are more likely to pursue advanced degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to a new study.
The study's authors state that National Science Foundation (NSF) and other entities' efforts to encourage representation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields appear to be effective.
For example, students who entered 2-year colleges were as likely as those who entered 4-year colleges or universities to participate in research. And undergraduate researchers were more likely than non-researchers to pursue a doctorate.
"This study indicates that carefully designed undergraduate research experiences motivate students," said Myles Boylan, program director for NSF's Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Program in the Divisions of Undergraduate Education and Graduate Education. "Students consider their research experiences to be effective previews of doing STEM graduate work as well as good learning experiences."
The authors conclude that given the positive outcomes of undergraduate research opportunities (UROs), greater attention should be given to fostering STEM interest in students at the elementary and high school levels.
The study resulted from a series of surveys on UROs funded by eight NSF programs with a substantial undergraduate research component.
The surveys were conducted between 2003 and 2005 by SRI International. NSF funded the research. The results were published in the April 27, 2007 issue of Science.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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