Undergraduate students are the”secret sauce” to help research programs be successful

Kenneth W. Van Treuren, Liping Liu, Anthony M. Jacobi, Sophie Wang, Kyriaki Kalaitzidou

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


In most universities, faculty are evaluated on three criteria: teaching, service, and research. While all are important, research is often weighted more heavily, especially at larger R1 universities. Even universities that emphasize teaching frequently have research expectations whether it be disciplinary or documenting novel educational/classroom activities. Either way, undergraduates are one of the most overlooked resources to help with research. This “Work in Progress” makes the case for using undergraduates in research by discussing the benefits of using them in research programs; it also identifies some pitfalls. Based on these observations and the literature, the recommendation is made to engage undergraduates in research early in their academic career, during their first or second year. Benefits for undergraduates in research over their academic career can result in these students continuing with the graduate program at their home institution or at other institutions. The Kern Foundation recognized the importance of undergraduates in research and sponsored a Request for Proposal (RFP) to address this topic. A collaboration of five universities from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) answered the RFP and were selected to address this topic. To assist faculty with integrating undergraduates in research, a series of initiatives are being developed to address student early exposure to the concept of research, training of students in research topics, and helping faculty see the value of using undergraduates in their research programs. For all initiatives, videos and accompanying activities will be available for use at any university. The specific area of focus for this paper is faculty development. The aim of faculty development is to help faculty see the need for undergraduates and to help them with recruitment and mentoring. For the two faculty development modules, videos and accompanying activities are envisioned to be delivered in a seminar setting targeting all faculty who do research. The first seminar entitled “Engaging Undergraduates in Your Research: Worth the Effort!” makes the connection of undergraduate students to research and highlights the value of research to both the student and the professor. The second seminar entitled “Boost Undergraduate Research Productivity with Entrepreneurially Minded Learning (EML) - Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value” helps faculty understand the obvious connection between EML and research. These much needed seminars should encourage both new and experienced faculty to accept EML and to see the benefit of including undergraduates in their research programs. Examples of professors who are successfully integrating undergraduates in research will be presented in the workshops. This should encourage all faculty and motivate them to include more undergraduates in their programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 25 2023
Event2023 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - The Harbor of Engineering: Education for 130 Years, ASEE 2023 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2023Jun 28 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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