The goals of the WSU undergraduate and teacher research experiences are to:
- Educate students/teachers in modern research and laboratory techniques,
- Give students a clearer idea of their options for a future in research,
- Motivate students toward careers in science,
- Provide exposure to scientific research for students who will go on in other fields,
- Provide teachers with enhanced scientific knowledge they can bring to their class rooms,
- Improve student literacy as well as written and oral communication skills,
- Promote the research of the CLEO, STAR, ALICE, CMS, SDSS, and CDF collaborations,
- Enhance the research of participating faculty.
We seek to accomplish the first five goals by incorporating the students/teachers into potentially publishable research projects. From the onset of their projects we emphasize to students/teachers that their work and the results they deliver, are important -- if not essential -- and can influence the research activity and direction of their respective mentors. We believe this gives students a sense of empowerment that drives them to make a real effort and apply care throughout their research experience. We strongly believe this is a crucial aspect of our program: students who are given makeshift work or artificial demonstration tasks would learn much less, and would not be given real incentives to take their project seriously. By getting involved in real research projects, students and teachers become familiar with the challenges scientists face on a daily basis, the methods they use to address and solve those challenges, and the joy and satisfaction brought about by discoveries, or simply “by making things work.”
Improvement of student and teacher scientific literacy and communication skills is accomplished, in part, by requiring students/teachers to read relevant sections of textbooks, scientific articles, and technical material related to their respective projects, and by requiring they present two talks on their research (the first before their research experience, and the second at the completion of their project) and complete a scientific report of their research/technical activities. The ability to speak or write coherently and professionally about scientific research is an important aspect of the scientific process: it is not enough to have good ideas or excellent results, these must be presented well so other scientists may appreciate and endorse them.