The University of Michigan will incorporate these elements of authentic research into two of the largest introductory science laboratories, introductory biology and introductory chemistry, that together enroll approximately 3500 students each year. Faculty will design semester-long research projects that build on and add to ongoing research in their laboratory and designate members of their research group as liaisons to the course instructors and students. The liaisons will include both more senior researchers from the group (postdocs or graduate students) and undergraduate students. Over a semester, students will hear presentations on the overall research goals and particular projects by the faculty member, discuss relevant hypotheses and design of appropriate tests of those hypotheses with the faculty member and research group liaisons, learn basic skills to implement those tests, collect and analyze data, and write up their results in science journal paper format. At the end of the semester, student teams will present their results in a symposium that includes the entire research group.
Examples of faculty-led research projects include studies of the human microbiome (e.g., effects of diet on composition and functioning of the gut microbiome), studies of solar energy conversion technology (e.g., comparisons of efficiency of solar cells incorporating different metals) and studies of snow chemistry and climate change (e.g., how salt incursion changes reflective properties of snow and therefore feeds back to climate change).
Assessment will compare performance and persistence in STEM majors for students in sections of each course that incorporate authentic research versus more standard laboratory exercises, as well as to students at similar stages in their education who engage in more traditional independent, apprentice-style research.