20 June 2024
Immersive Research Experience Boosts Students' Science Identity

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Community college students from Colorado and neighboring states gather at CU Boulder for an immersive nine-week research experience each summer. Findings from a CIRES-led study indicate that these students gain not only new scientific and professional competencies but also an enhanced confidence in their scientific abilities and a strengthened sense of community within the scientific field as they return home.

Building Science Identity Through Immersive Research



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Every summer, a group of community college students from Colorado and surrounding states come together on the CU Boulder campus for a unique nine-week research program. A recent study led by CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences) shows that this immersive experience not only equips students with scientific and professional skills, but also boosts their confidence in their ability to do science and fosters a stronger sense of belonging in the science community.

Authentic Research Experiences Inspire Interest in STEM Careers

The research program, called RECCS (Research Experiences for Community College Students), pairs these students with science mentors from CIRES, CU Boulder, and NOAA to explore cutting-edge research questions in environmental or Earth science. Throughout the program, students get to dive into academic papers, collect and analyze data in various settings, and share their findings with their peers and the wider scientific community. This hands-on approach allows them to truly experience what it’s like to be a scientist.

The study published in PLOS ONE reveals that this authentic research experience inspires community college students’ interest in STEM careers. By providing them with a supportive mentor and a cohort environment, RECCS helps these students learn together, create a community of peers interested in research, and build their science identity and career readiness.

Personal and Professional Gains

The study analyzed post-program surveys from RECCS students who participated from 2015-2018. The results showed that the program not only helped students develop scientific and professional skills, but also contributed to their personal growth. Students reported gaining confidence in science, developing a science identity, and increasing their interest in pursuing graduate school and STEM careers.

Mentors who participated in the program also observed student growth in research and technical skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving. They noted that students gained confidence and comfort in a research environment, which is crucial for their future success in STEM fields.

Expanding Opportunities for Community College Students

The impact of the RECCS program goes beyond individual students. It has served 114 community college students since its inception in 2014, with many alumni going on to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM. The program has been instrumental in shaping the career paths of its participants, inspiring them to pursue research and explore graduate school opportunities.

The researchers behind the study hope that their findings will encourage other Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs to provide similar immersive research opportunities for community college students. By broadening the participation in science and inspiring the next generation of scientists, these programs can contribute to the advancement of academic research.

Conclusion

The RECCS program at CU Boulder is providing community college students with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in scientific research. Through this experience, students not only gain scientific and professional skills, but also develop a stronger sense of belonging in the science community and a greater confidence in their ability to contribute to the field. By expanding these types of programs, we can continue to inspire and empower the next generation of scientists.

FAQ’s

1. What is the RECCS program?

The RECCS program is a nine-week research program at CU Boulder that pairs community college students with science mentors to explore cutting-edge research questions in environmental or Earth science.

2. How does the RECCS program benefit students?

The RECCS program equips students with scientific and professional skills, boosts their confidence in their ability to do science, and fosters a stronger sense of belonging in the science community.

3. What are the personal and professional gains of participating in the RECCS program?

Participating in the RECCS program helps students develop scientific and professional skills, gain confidence in science, develop a science identity, and increase their interest in pursuing graduate school and STEM careers.

4. How does the RECCS program impact the community college students?

The RECCS program has served 114 community college students since its inception, inspiring many alumni to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM and pursue research and graduate school opportunities.

5. How can other programs benefit from the findings of the RECCS program?

The findings of the RECCS program can encourage other Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs to provide similar immersive research opportunities for community college students, thereby broadening the participation in science and inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Links to additional Resources:

CIRES – Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences University of Colorado Boulder National Science Foundation (NSF)

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado Boulder, Research Experiences for Community College Students (RECCS)

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) is a research institute that is sponsored jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU). CIRES scientists study the Earth system, including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere,...
Read more: Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

University of Colorado Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder, CU, or Colorado) is a public research university in Boulder, Colorado, United States. Founded in 1876, five months before Colorado became a state, it is the flagship university of the University of Colorado system. CU Boulder is a member of the Association of...
Read more: University of Colorado Boulder

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