Broadening Participation and the Culture of Undergraduate Research Experiences
Effective Years: 2021-2024
It is critically important that the United States create and maintain a thriving scientific workforce that propels future discoveries and innovations. The academic research laboratory is an essential context where students learn what science is, what is expected of a scientist, and decide whether they will pursue or persist within the scientific community. This project investigates the transmission of norms, expectations, and values between and among scientists, their students, and their research personnel. We do not yet know how faculty communicate the cultural beliefs and practices of science in ways that do – or do not – support student motivation and experiences, especially those students who are from historically underrepresented backgrounds.
The goal of this project is to follow nearly one thousand students working within faculty research labs at three universities to answer four research questions: 1. How do the messages that faculty directly and indirectly convey to their research labs shape students’ perceptions about the norms and values of science? 2. To what extent do faculty’s beliefs about the norms and values of science predict experiences of microaffirmations in the lab among students from historically underrepresented backgrounds? 3. To what extent do faculty beliefs about the norms and values of science predict undergraduate student research interest and persistence, and are these effects stronger for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds? 4. To what degree do we observe discrepancies between faculty beliefs about the norms and values of science, and what students think their faculty believe? Do these discrepancies predict student experiences and outcomes? To answer these questions, the project will draw on longitudinal social psychological methods and social capital theory. This project aims to employ behavioral measures related to student persistence, productivity, and career choices, in addition to subjective measures of research interest collected over one year. The goal is to produce transformative knowledge on scientific communication processes that shape students’ research experiences and interests, in order to retaining a diverse and robust future scientific workforce.
This project is funded by the EHR Core Research (ECR) program, which supports work that advances fundamental research on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.