Undergraduate research in science
Pacifici, Lara Brongo
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Undergraduate research in science has gained support and popularity over the past decade. Research on the outcomes of undergraduate research in science is abundant and reflects numerous positive gains associated with research experiences. Understanding of the influences that guide students to pursue undergraduate research in science is, however, lacking. Further, while outcomes are well-defined, insight to how outcomes relate to students’ expectations of the research experience is deficient. The purpose of this dissertation is to address these areas of vague understanding regarding undergraduate research in science. The first chapter uses exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis to examine factors influencing students’ participation in science undergraduate research. The second chapter examines students’ expectations of their science research experiences in comparison to the realized outcomes that they report. The third chapter compares and contrasts the influences and expectations of pre-med and non-pre-med students doing undergraduate research in science. Online questionnaires, follow-up interviews, and participant observation were used to collect data. Path analysis and qualitative methods gleaned from Grounded Theory were used for a mixed methods analysis. Accessibility and social influences had the greatest effect on participation in research. Expectations tracked outcomes in most areas, but not in the case of GPA, publishing, and faculty interactions. Attitudes and intrinsic motivation of pre-med students were less than that of nonpre-med students, but their expectations of the research experience did not differ. Implications of this dissertation include the necessity of increased access to undergraduate research programs and possible differentiation of undergraduate research programs to best serve different groups of students.