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Harvard Forest Research Project 2022

  • Title: Longitudinal Outcomes of Summer Undergraduate Research: Harvard Forest Summer Research Program in Ecology (HF-SRPE)
  • Principal investigator: Audrey Barker Plotkin (aabarker@fas.harvard.edu)
  • Institution: Harvard Forest
  • Primary contact: Audrey Barker Plotkin (aabarker@fas.harvard.edu)
  • Team members: Sydne Record
  • Abstract:

    Undergraduate research experiences (UREs) in STEM fields (e.g. REU Sites) provide many students with their first hands-on experience in doing real research. The Harvard Forest Summer Research Program in Ecology (HF-SRPE) annually supports 20-30 undergraduates from diverse backgrounds, each of whom participates in 11 weeks of mentor-supervised research. Projects focus on measuring, understanding, and forecasting effects of natural disturbances, human activities, and global climatic change on forest ecosystems. Students also participate in seminars, educational workshops, and career/graduate school panels. Since 2006 Harvard Forest has administered pre- and post-program student evaluation surveys to assess (1) acquisition and enhancement of scientific research skills; (2) satisfaction with the URE learning experience; and (3) post-program plans for STEM education and career development. An annual survey also assesses long-term STEM education and career trajectories of HF-SRPE alumni. However, recent review of UREs (Linn et al. 2015, Science 347:627) suggested that available program data are insufficient to determine whether students’ future “success” in science is improved by their participation in a URE. This study aims to address some of the current gaps in URE program assessments and provide a framework for other programs.