This infographic summarizes the demographic makeup of CISE REU Past Participants who participated in REU projects between 2013 and 2021.
Computing Research News
CRA-WPExpanding the Pipeline
The Distributed REsearch Apprenticeships for Master’s (DREAM) is a pilot NSF program being offered by a nationwide consortium of colleges and universities that have created “bridge to MS in CS” programs for students with non-CS bachelor’s degrees. Schools in the MSCS Pathways to Computing Consortium provide a new pathway for people who studied something other than CS as undergraduates to enter the tech field. The strong emphasis of this effort is to provide a new pathway into computing for individuals from populations historically minoritized in tech (women, LGBQTIA, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Hawaiian/Alaskan/Asian Pacific Islander students, and students with disabilities). Consortium members sign a membership agreement that, among other things, confirms their commitment to increasing the diversity of their graduate programs. Students in these Consortium pathways come from a wide array of undergraduate backgrounds that span the STEM disciplines, humanities, social sciences, business, and the arts.
One of the goals I hope to accomplish with this article is to open the eyes of faculty to the ways in which bright and motivated undergraduates can contribute meaningfully to their research projects and groups. This piece intends to help educate folks who have limited experience with undergraduate research or are unsure how to come up with research projects. I hope it helps others learn quickly from the knowledge I have gained over the years.
CRA-WPExpanding the Pipeline
As efforts to broaden computing have become more diverse, inclusive, and just, despite increasing enrollments in computer science, the percentages of historically excluded students have not changed much and many institutions are struggling to retain them. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) are designed to introduce undergraduate students to research and present active training opportunities that may lead to students pursuing advanced academic degrees. Students are exposed early in their academic careers to research as problem solving, and therefore can develop critical thinking skills independently of coding skills. REUs provide an alternative source of funding while engaging with faculty and mentors who can nurture their interests and provide encouragement to persist in their degree program, often prior to declaring a major. In addition to providing early research engagement opportunities for first year and second year students with insufficient experience to compete for cooperative and summer internships, applying to and participating in REUs provide experience navigating application requirements (including writing a personal statement and gaining strong letters of recommendation, which helps them get to know faculty and vice-versa), collaborating on a project, and building a set of skills that would make them an attractive graduate school applicants. REUs are especially beneficial for first-generation, community college, and non-traditional students who may have limited exposure and access to graduate school, the application process, and hands-on opportunities to explore the field more deeply.
We share some key insights that have been gleaned from evaluation reports of mentors and participants in the CRA Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP)’s Collaborative Research Experiences for Undergraduates (CREU) and Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DREU) programs and our own firsthand experiences working with and mentoring undergraduate students.
Low- and higher-income undergraduates differ in the extent to which they endorse various reasons for not participating in formal research experiences. This infographic compares reasons for research non-participation among these two groups and suggests avenues for increasing engagement among low-income students.
Analyzing data collected graduating computing students during the spring of 2018, CERP replicated findings indicating that students with formal research experience are more likely to apply to graduate school and enroll in doctoral programs compared to students without any formal research experiences during their undergraduate program.
Among students at doctoral-granting institutions who have never participated in a formal REU, CERP data indicate IT majors are less likely to plan to participate in an REU before graduation compared to CS and CSE majors. This infographic presents students’ future REU plans by major.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) makes substantial investments in promoting undergraduate research opportunities. These investments reflect the value that CISE attaches to a well-designed undergraduate research experience; it can be an essential, unifying element of a quality CISE-centric undergraduate program. In this article, CISE describes its approach to undergraduate research experiences, and calls on faculty to further promote a culture of undergraduate research within academic departments to strengthen the impact of current and future CISE investments.
With undergraduate enrollment in computing majors growing, up 24.1% from last year as reported in this year’s Taulbee Survey, we as a community have a responsibility to ensure quality research experiences for our students. Quality undergraduate research experiences are essential for students in all STEM disciplines, particularly students pursuing degrees in computer, information, and computational science and engineering. The interdisciplinary nature of computing (and closely related) disciplines has produced a new generation of students seeking blended degree programs that weave together computing and other disciplines through courses and deeper experiential learning. The rapidly evolving nature of computing disciplines coupled with the pervasive nature of computing and the explosion of computational and data-enabled approaches to problem-solving demand unifying research experiences to prepare students for the fullest career opportunities and to address workforce needs that will sustain our field’s leadership well into the future.