Since the Freshman Research Immersion (FRI) program is brand new, we don’t have any data to report on it just yet. With that said, you might wonder how we know it will work.
Well, the concept isn’t totally new. Faculty at Binghamton University have been trying small versions of this type of program for some time with groups of students conducting “independent study” research. Increasingly, faculty have tried this with freshmen and sophomores, but could never take on more than a few of these students at a time because of their prior commitments to juniors and seniors.
With an infrastructure in place to support it, the University wants to expand this freshman experience to at least 300 students per year, with 30 students in each Research Stream, with at least 10 Streams. Our pilot year, the 2014-15 academic year, we started with about 90 students and three Research Streams.
Students are better prepared for careers in science and engineering
The coursework in the FRI program integrates conducting research with the classroom, using a sophisticated framework of how students learn. The program provides a multi-mentoring process for students. In addition, each Research Stream addresses core concepts and skills in that discipline.
- Participation in real research early in college
- Applying core concepts and core skills
- Developing own project within context of big research question
- Presenting work to peers and experts
- More advanced research opportunities as juniors and seniors
- Greater success both in the classroom and in research
- Faster personal and professional growth
- More opportunities for awards, scholarships and industry internships while in college
- Broader opportunities for graduate/professional school and research experiences abroad
- Excellent foundation for lifelong career success and satisfaction
Related Features of FRI
Each Research Stream will generate spin-off modules of authentic research that will be infused into regular science and engineering courses, such that eventually authentic research will become part of all coursework at Binghamton.
Research in Science Education
Our FRI program is aligned with the national initiative for transforming undergraduate STEM education, which is based on about 20 years of research about how students learn and how to engage students in careers in the sciences and engineering.
As recommended by reports from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, National Research Council, National Science Foundation, American Association for Advancement of Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Lumina Foundation, a central feature of the national initiative to transform undergraduate STEM education is that students, including non-majors, have authentic research experiences early and then throughout their college years.
Authentic research is defined as having these components: development of student-generated research questions whose answers are currently unknown; longitudinal focus on one set of research questions over the length of the course; implementation of experimental designs that are not predetermined; collaboration among peers; and presentation by students of results and ideas for future research.
We'd especially like to thank the University of Texas at Austin’s Freshman Research Initiative program for providing a model for our program.