Developing a Successful Research Program at a Primarily Undergraduate Commuter Institution with many First-Generation Low-Income Students.

Developing a Successful Research Program at a Primarily Undergraduate Commuter Institution with many First-Generation Low-Income Students.

Rutgers University - Camden (RUC) is a Primarily Undergraduate Institution with few graduate programs. Reflecting the RUC urban location, the student body is diverse in traditionally underrepresented groups (16% African-American and 13% Hispanic). The Department of Biology has 350 undergraduates. 54% of students are first-generation (neither parent has attended college). 72% of students work off-campus jobs, suggesting a high rate those from a low-income background. 91% of these students are commuters. However, a healthy number of them (15%) pursue graduate programs after attaining their Bachelor’s in Biology with most pursuing MS degrees. This paints a picture of a large student population from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds that disproportionately strive to further their education. However, the availability of research opportunities for these students is limited due to smaller numbers of faculty members, a need for off-campus jobs, and limited time from long commutes. To address this, we have developed three research programs that integrate authentic research experiences into the curriculum, allowing students to gain authentic research experiences for credit: 1) Principles and Practices of Biological Research (PPBR, 4-cr completely customizable CURE) 2) Bite-Sized Authentic Research Experiences (B-SARE, 6-cr traditional CURE), and 3) RUC-MARC (2-yr traditional mentored research experience). To showcase our students’ research, we also created an undergraduate research journal that features primary research, reviews, and science news called the RUC Journal of Biological Science. We are actively studying the impact of these initiatives on the science identity, retention, and success of our first-generation low-income students.

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Nathan Fried, PhD

July 02, 2019
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