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Workshop on Undergraduate Science Research Education

Yale University,
New Haven, Connecticut
October 18-19, 1996

The Yale workshop participants met over a one and one half day period. The participants (see attached list) represented the National Science Foundation; Yale University, Harvard University, and Wesleyan University; educational support programs, such as the North East Consortium for Undergraduate Science Education (NECUSE) and the Howard Hughes Foundation; the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, New Haven K-12 schools, the planning group for a new high school of science magnet school in New Haven; the City of New Haven; and Science Park, a technology incubator in New Haven. In addition, several of the participants had attended the NSF-sponsored workshop at Wellesley College titled, "Funding Strategies for Scientists who Combine Research and Teaching: Integration of Research and Education", held on 13 September 1996, and communicated some of the Wellesley group's concerns and judgments to the members of the Yale meeting.

The Yale workshop participants focused attention primarily on identifying major problems affecting undergraduate science education, and defining practical solutions which might be implemented by the National Science Foundation.

Educational Productivity
Data on current and projected levels of funding by the NSF and other government agencies indicate that large infusions of government funds to support new programs in research and teaching are highly unlikely, and in fact significant reductions are anticipated. Thus, any proposed programs must function within fairly severe fiscal constraints, and to be effective must be designed to do more with less.

There was fair agreement with a thesis advanced by Yale Biology Professor Robert Wyman that the teacher/researcher has become an endangered species. This conclusion was based on the geometric increase of researchers in medical schools, research institutes, and universities, combined with the plateauing of research funding. The current situation places an inordinate emphasis on competition for grant funding and very little on teaching. Employing a business metaphor, Wyman argued that it was necessary to search for ways to increase educational productivity within the present day climate of the research imperative. One obvious way to do so is to bring the undergraduate student into the research laboratory where the student receives practical training in the context of research discovery. In this trade off, the student helps to advance the research productivity of the professor, and in return is given practical training by the professor and/or the other members of the research group, including technicians, predocs, and postdocs. This system is already in place across the country. It increases educational productivity in that the professor and other members of the team are motivated to interact with the student. Students who work closely with the professor, postdoc, grad student, etc., have the opportunity to acquire technological knowledge and develop critical thinking skills essential for independent careers in biomedical research. Its weakness is that educational emphasis is placed on technique rather than basic knowledge. There was a general conclusion that while undergraduate experience in a research laboratory can be worthwhile, it is in itself not a complete solution to undergraduate science research education.

Mentor/Peer Group Approach to Increased Educational Productivity
There are other non-traditional approaches to teaching science within a research framework. One example is the NECUSE program funded by the Pew Charitable Trust and directed by Professor Richard Leahy at Harvard. In this program, students in Northeastern colleges and universities were provided with summer scholarships to attend research based educational programs at sister institutions. The students seek as a group to solve research problems posed by a mentor. An important approach in such programs is the emphasis on problem solving within the peer group. The students themselves are encouraged to pose solutions and to critique them as a means to problem solving. Technique is learned, but importantly so is process and basic understanding. The peer group educational method may also be practiced in large lecture classes (see Chapter 8 in Revitalizing Undergraduate Science by Sheila Tobias ISBN 0-9633504-1-2). Such programs are highly attractive as confidence building mechanisms for minority students, recruiting devices for the sciences, and as a means to teach basic scientific principles, but unfortunately they do not cheaply increase educational productivity.

A Yale intramural program, termed STARS, using many of the same techniques as NECUSE, but directed toward minority students and women during the freshman year has been exceptionally successful. A primary aim of this program is to develop student self confidence with respect to their ability to handle scientific subject matter. Programs of this sort also serve to reduce the exodus of science students to non-science majors during the freshman and sophomore years. The STARS program was implemented by the faculty mentor/researchers in the Departments of Biology (Associate Research Scientists Kenneth Nelson and Joseph Wolenski) and Chemistry (Associate Research Scientist Iona Black), and will be extended to the physical sciences and engineering in the coming year. Selected students are invited to join a study group led by a upper class undergraduate which emphasizes problem solving as a peer group within a research format. Basics are emphasized. Following two terms of study, students are placed within a research laboratory during their first summer term where they pursue the solution of a project of interest to the host laboratory. They are mentored most usually by a postdoctoral fellow or graduate student. The students continue to meet as a peer group with their undergraduate mentor during the summer, sharing their experiences with their fellows. The program finalizes with a symposium attended by relevant faculty and mentors in which research findings are presented. It is planned that the graduates of this program will cycle back into the STARS program as mentors. This program is costly in terms of support for the faculty mentors, facilities, and supplies. However, there is an educational productivity gain in the involvement of faculty, predocs, postdocs and undergraduates in the educational process, and the possibility not yet tested fully that the graduates of the program will in turn become mentors.

A more generalized science research mentorship program was described by Yale Biology Professor Mark Mooseker which combines elements of a research apprenticeship together with a peer group based research education. The key to this approach now practiced at Yale over the past five years is the mentor/researcher. Drs. Ken Nelson and Joe Wolenski serve in this capacity as well as contributing to the STARS program. The mentor/researcher is a faculty member whose primary responsibility is to enhance educational productivity both qualitatively and quantitatively. This is accomplished by designing and teaching laboratory courses which stress problem solving employing the peer group approach. The courses are intense, have a short duration of half a semester, cover broad areas such as nucleic acids and proteins both from a chemical and genetic point of view, stress process and technique by introducing a real research project from a lab of a senior faculty member such as the cloning of a gene or the isolation of a protein, and by the selection of research topics bring faculty members as a whole into contact with the students. The mentor/researcher is also in charge of state of the art teaching facilities and shared instrument facilities. These facilities are used interchangeably for research and teaching and again serve to optimize student interaction with the faculty. The mentor/researcher; is encouraged to participate in research either by securing their own individual research grant support or as a co-PI with another faculty member. A principal objective is that the mentor/researcher serves as a catalyst to enhance the educational productivity of the entire faculty and student body.

Variations on this theme, in which problem solving is emphasized over laboratory techniques, are incorporated into life science education programs across the country, including those of this discussion group. The incorporation of project-oriented teaching labs, where the results are not known ahead of time, provides a level of student interest and excitement not found in more traditional technique-oriented exercises. Yet, the project labs do incorporate standard techniques (e.g. in molecular biology). thereby laying a solid framework of knowledge.

Extending Educational Productivity to K-12 Schools
Yale as an urban university has had a continuing interaction with the New Haven and regional K-12 public and private schools. Today those interactions are increasing and becoming more formalized. A number of institutions enhance and support these relationships. One is the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute which has a 20 year history of bringing K-12 teachers and Yale faculty together. Basically, as described by its director, Yale Professor James Vivian, the institute arranges seminars in a range of topics for K-12 teachers. An average of 60 teachers participate per year. The seminars run from March through July for a total 22 one hour meetings and 80 hours of research and writing. Yale faculty serve as mentors and practice a peer group approach to instruction. Recent topics have been "Multiculturalism and the Law" ; "Genetics in the Twentieth Century"; and "Cosmology and Astronomy". We believe this program can be expanded to laboratory research training under the leadership of Yale mentor/researchers during the summer term using the Yale laboratory research facilities. This has been done previously on a limited and informal basis with promising results.

New Haven is currently constructing a science high school adjacent to the Yale University School of Medicine and a developing Bio-medical Technology Incubator. The University is deeply involved in this development as described by Professor Gerald Collins and Mrs. Claudia Mersonk who serve as liaison between Yale and the new school. Plans include teacher/student exchange, access to University laboratories facilities, library services, and communication networks. Yale based mentor/research faculty can play an important role in facilitating these developments and have already contributed their expertise in laboratory planning for the new facility.

Connections to Biotechnology
The State of Connecticut, the City of New Haven, and Yale University are partners in Science Park Corporation, Inc., a technology incubator, located in New Haven adjacent to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine. Mr. David Driver, its director described the corporation and its relationships to the University. There are 80 companies and 1,000 employees in the Park. The University is a major factor in the attractiveness of the Park as a location for start up companies. Mr. Driver saw mentor/researchers within the University as a potential resource for biotech development. Mentor/researchers can serve to educate and train Science Park personnel as well as make University research facilities and equipment centers available to the companies. This is already happening to a limited extent.

Science and the Community
Increasingly, we see the University as a centerpiece for community development. The University can enhance K-12 education and economic development. The benefits are mutually rewarding in terms of improving the social and economic quality of the city and its surrounding communities. We see the mentor/researcher potentially as a significant contributor to the health and vitality of the urban community. We believe the intervention of the mentor/research may be instrumental in stemming the high rate of student fallout in the high school years.

A Simple but Important Consideration
We generally found the educational productivity paradigm to be a useful way to think about enhancements to science education. We believe more thought and analysis should devoted to what constitutes educational productivity, and how it can be used to measure and reward productive teaching practices.

A Rule for Making Awards to Enhance Education
Awards intended to enhance undergraduate research education should be based primarily on objective criteria related to educational productivity and not solely on research excellence. Research quality and productivity should be deemed as necessary, but not sufficient as criteria for awards.

Recommendations to Enrich Science Education in Research Settings
Our discussions make clear that there is a spectrum of educational models with different degrees of involvement of research. Recognizing the important contribution of teacher/scholars to science education and research, NSF has the opportunity to institute new and to enhance existing programs to actively encourage the synergy between research and education. Some suggestions follow:

1. Recommendations for a Mentor/Researcher Program
There was generally enthusiastic support for a recommendation that the NSF consider developing a mentor/researcher program having the following features.

  • It will be the responsibility of the mentor/researcher to enhance educational productivity in a number of catalytic ways. These will include the innovation of laboratory and lecture courses that employ the peer group method, and that these courses be designed to bring faculty, postdocs, predocs, and undergraduates into the educational process. Moreover, wherever possible these teaching activities would be extended to the community with respect to K-12 science teacher training and to personnel in the biotech industry.
  • Funding of mentor/researchers should be on a partnership basis with Universities. Funding should be limited to 50% of salary with no indirect. It was recommended that five year awards be capped at $50,000 per year.
  • Criteria for funding would be based on demonstrated potential or realization of enhancement of educational productivity. Preference would be given to candidates who have active research programs either as PIs or Co-PIs. Management of shared research facilities would also be considered as a plus.
  • Candidature would require appointment to a University or College faculty, irrespective of rank or ladder/non-ladder status.
  • The Biological Sciences Directorate should consider establishment of a five year experimental trial with the support of 30 mentor/researchers at a broad spectrum of colleges and universities. The cost of such a program would be approximately $10,000,000, but could be shared with other Directorates, particularly Education. Foundations and the private sector could also be approached for support.

2. Recommendation to Include an Optional Brief Statement of Educational Impact in Research Grant Applications
This statement would encourage and catalyze consideration of how research programs can impact and improve science education. The statement should be optional since some research settings (e.g. research institutes) are sometimes not linked to educational objectives. However, most settings relate directly to education, and by offering this component of a research proposal, NSF would implicitly indicate that value is placed in the longer-term educational impact as well as the immediate research impact of projects.

3. Recommendation to Extend the NSF Faculty Early Career Awards Program to Include Innovative Mid-Career Teacher/Scholars
The generation of creative ways to integrate teaching and research often comes with teaching experience, especially after a P.I.'s research program is well established. We recommend that NSF consider tapping into and encouraging such education creativity by including mid-career faculty in the Career Awards Program. In keeping with the current program, excellence should be required in both research and teaching, and different grant evaluation modes for assessing educational initiatives should be explored.


Participants (* will not attend)

David Beveridge, Wesleyan University*
Iona Black, Yale University
Mary Clutter, National Science Foundation*
J. G. Collins, Yale School of Medicine
David Driver, Science Park
James Donady, Wesleyan University
Cornelia Evans, Yale University
Joan Girgus, Princeton University*
Sue Ellen Gruber, Mount Holyoke College*
Judith Hackman, Yale University*
Adrian Hayday, Yale University*
Pierre Hohenberg, Yale University
Anthony Infante, Wesleyan University*
Shafali Lal, Yale School of Medicine
Richard Leahy, Harvard University*
Paul Martin, Harvard University*
Claudia Merson, Science Magnet School
Mark Mooseker, Yale University
Kenneth Nelson, Yale University
Michael Teitelbaum, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation*
Bruce Umminger, National Science Foundation
James Vivian, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Michael Weir, Wesleyan University
Joseph Wolenski, Yale University
Robert Wyman, Yale University
Rhoda Zahler, City of New Haven

Addresses of Participants

David Beveridge, Wesleyan University
(860) 685-3110
Hall-Atwater Lab, Room 37
237 Church St
Middletown, CT 06459

Iona Black, Yale University
Lecturer, Dept. of Chemistry
SCL 108

Mary Clutter, National Science Foundation
Assistant Director
(703) 306-1400
National Science Foundation
Biological Sciences Directorate
4201 Wilson Blvd., Room 605
Arlington, VA 22230
Fax: (703) 306-0343

J. G. Collins, Yale School of Medicine
Professor, Dept. of Anesthesiology

James Donady, Wesleyan University
Dean of Undergraduate Education

David Driver, Science Park
President and CEO
5 Science Park
New Haven, CT 06511
Fax: 786-5050

Cornelia Evans, Yale University
Corporate and Foundation Relations
Fax: 432-0386

Joan Girgus, Princeton University
Professor, Chair, Dept. of Psychology
(609) 258-5345
Green Hall 1-F-5
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1010
fax: (609) 258-0213


Sue Ellen Gruber, Mount Holyoke College
Dept. of Biology
(413) 538-2065
fax: (413) 538-2548

Judith Hackman, Yale University
Office of Development and Alumni Affairs
Director-Corporate and Foundation Relations;
Assistant to the Provost

Adrian Hayday, Yale University
Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology
616 KBT

Pierre Hohenberg, Yale University
Deputy Provost for Science and Technology

Anthony Infante, Wesleyan University
(860) 685-2424
Hall-Atwater Lab, Room 225
237 Church St.
Middletown, CT 06459

Shafali Lal, Yale School of Medicine
Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs
367 Cedar St., Suite 109-A
PO Box 208036
New Haven, CT 06520-8036
fax: 737-5507

Richard Leahy, Harvard University
Associate Dean
(617) 495-5511
Science Center
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
Fax: (617) 495-5304

Paul Martin, Harvard University
Dean, Division of Engineering and applied Sciences
(617) 495-5829
Pierce Hall 217
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
fax: (617) 495-9837

Claudia Merson
Coordinator, Career High School Partnership
I-100 SHM, Yale

Mark Mooseker, Yale University
Professor, Dept. of Biology
352 KBT

Kenneth Nelson, Yale University
Associate Research Scientist and Lecturer, Dept. of Biology
122 OML

Frank Ruddle, Yale University
Professor, Department of Biology
1010 KBT
(203) 432-3520
Fax: 432-5690

Michael Teitelbaum, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Program Officer
(212) 649-1649
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
630 5th Ave, Suite 2550
New York, NY 10111
Fax: (212) 757-5117

Bruce Umminger, National Science Foundation
(703) 306-1420
National Science Foundation
Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience
4201 Wilson Blvd., Room 685
Arlington, VA 22230
fax: (703) 306-0349

James Vivian, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
53 Wall St.

Joseph Wolenski, Yale University
Associate research scientist and lecturer, Dept. of Biology
342 KBT

Michael Weir, Wesleyan University

Robert Wyman, Yale University
Professor, Dept. of Biology
610 KBT

Rhoda Zahler, City of New Haven
Director of special projects, Office of Business Development
fax: 946-7808


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