Abstract

Undergraduate research continues to serve as an effective strategy for mitigating the effects of a leaky pipeline. Significant funding from institutions and government agencies has increased the number of students participating in undergraduate research. In this paper, we report on the six-year experience of a National Science Foundation funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site: Biomedical Engineering in Simulations, Imaging, and Modeling (BME-SIM). The operation and evaluation of the program are both described. We report on the results from 55 students over six summers from 2014 to 2019. Our program was successful in attracting a diverse group of participants including 46% under-represented minority students and 53% women. Based on evaluation results, students reported significant gains in technical skills, communication skills, and knowledge of graduate school. Our findings indicate baseline gender differences for several learning outcomes, where women and nonbinary students report lower levels of mastery. These gaps are closed by the end of the program except for confidence in skills, which is still significantly lower than those reported by male counterparts. The impact of the experience on ultimate career path is difficult to determine due to underlying biases and other motivating factors; however, 67.6% of graduates have entered graduate programs. Finally, we have provided lessons learned for those who are interested in building a summer research program. In conclusion, we have described the successful implementation of an REU site and the positive learning outcomes of the student participants.

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