CU Research Transfer: Enhancing the Research Experience of Community College Transfer Students

Principal Investigator: Avery August

Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Sponsor: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Title: CU Research Transfer: Enhancing the Research Experience of Community College Transfer Students
Project Amount: $200,000
Project Period: January 2018 to December 2018

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

As the costs of attending a 4-year college continues to increase, community colleges are increasingly seen as a route to lower college costs. Furthermore, community colleges are also major destinations for lower income, first generation, women and minority students, and significant pipelines for students seeking to earn STEM degrees. However, a small percentage of students who enter community college planning to transfer actually do so, and those who are able to transfer face a number of barriers that can make success difficult, including obtaining undergraduate research experience, which can contribute to the success of STEM students. Notably, current data suggest that research experience of over a year provides better value to the student than summer experiences. The CU Research Transfer program aims to enhance the success of 2-year transfer biology students at Cornell University by enhancing their transition to Cornell, and increasing their participating in undergraduate research. The proposed program includes three stages: Pre-summer Research Exposure Program (PREP) (to enhance preparation for laboratory research); Research Mentoring and Preparation (value added research training), Peer Mentorship and Outreach, and Evaluation. Potential participants will participate in a 2-year program as a cohort, and will start with the opportunity to participate in a summer program prior to their matriculation, with mentored research activity, matches with research faculty, and meeting with their advising teams, including peer mentors. In the fall and spring of the academic year, participants will participate as a cohort in a S/U 1-credit research “Preparing future researchers” course to enhance the exposure of the participants to the range of faculty research, and as a forum for student researchers to discuss potential difficulties or success in labs. In the Spring of the academic year, participants will also be advised on options for honors theses preparation (juniors) and submission (seniors), as appropriate. Also in the spring, participants will participate peer mediated outreach to their respective community colleges to future CU Research Transfer participants. Summer of junior year will see participants continue research. The program will be evaluated by assessing participants’ use of scientific practices, ability to interpret research data in the lab and in primary research papers, and judge research design, tracked over time. The number of 2-year students and being admitted to the Biology program, particularly those students who are underrepresented or first generation will also be evaluated. The proportion of 2-year transfer students that enter into research labs and register for research credit, preparation and submission of Honors theses, ongoing semester GPA and graduating GPA, and time to graduation. These will be compared to control Biology majors who enter as freshmen, or who transfer from other institutions (non-participants). We will also evaluate the participants’ performance in research laboratories compared to peers who are not participants in the program by soliciting feedback from their research faculty mentors using a questionnaire. Finally, we will determine the type of post-graduation activities of the participants to determine whether the activities increase their continued involvement in Biology (or STEM) careers. Since 2-year transfer Biology students to Cornell are more likely to be underrepresented than the total transfer population, we anticipate that this program will also enhance the success of underrepresented students at Cornell.