Issues In Education Securing O. R. ‘s future through undergraduate research By Susan E. Marathons Course scheduling, vaccine stockpiling and mass prophylaxis, malaria prevention In Africa. What do these topics have in common? These were the research topics presented by six undergraduates during the Undergraduate Research Showcase at the recent INFORMS annual Meeting In Washington, D. C. The showcase, sponsored by INFORM-DE, highlighted the impressive modeling and analysis done by some of our undergraduate students (O.
R. , I. E. And math majors) on Important problems. In this article, I hope to demonstrate the critical role undergraduate research can play In shaping the future of our profession by addressing some “what’s,” “whey’s” and “how’s” of undergraduate research. What is “undergraduate research”? According to the Council on undergraduate Research, it is “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline” [1 J. In an O. R. Intent, this includes both applied and theoretical research, from emergency response to approximation algorithms. The goal of undergraduate research Is Inquiry-based learning conducted closely with a faculty member. Three reasons why operations researchers should conduct research with undergraduates: Reason 1: It helps foster the O. R. Pipeline. INFORMS President Cynthia Bernhard expressed in the December 2007 issue of OR/ MS Today that “reaching out” to students at all levels is an important component of marketing our profession .
Involving undergraduates in O. R. Research would contribute to this effort In a couple ways. First, our broadly applicable and mathematically sophisticated research projects can excite many young engineers and authentications. Cesar Guttering, a Showcase participant who presented his Georgia Tech senior project on malaria prevention in Swaziland, found it satisfying to do research that could “help thousands of people around the world. ” Such projects could encourage more students to pursue graduate study in O.
R. , while students entering industry would bring with them a deeper understanding of O. R. Methodology and philosophy. Second, such experiences offer students the opportunity for one-on-one interaction and mentors with a faculty member. Clinic Www, a first year Ph. D. Tuned at Stanford and a Showcase presenter who designed a mass prophylaxis response system while an undergraduate at Cornell, said, “The guidance from [my advisors] was Invaluable In developing relationships with experts in the field. All students can benefit from individual attention and encouragement to pursue graduate studies, and research suggests that this might be 1 OFF especially Important Tort Inspiring women anon Malory students 13]. Reason 2 Research strengthens students’ learning. Engaging undergraduates in research has been deemed a “critical component” for science, engineering and mathematics education  and “the pedagogy for the 21st century” . Research is different from classroom learning because it’s so messy: Problems are not well defined and tractable, and theorems are not known in advance to be true.
An undergraduate researcher will have to weigh conflicting approaches, apply simplifying assumptions, use appropriate methodology to solve the problem, and reiterate, leveraging their creativity throughout this process. Students come away from a research project with a deeper understanding of O. R. Than they could ever achieve in a classroom. Reason : Advising research is fun. If you are like me, you remember the excitement you felt when you first discovered O. R. It is a Joy to witness that discovery in undergraduates, collaborate closely with them and excite them to explore the field more deeply.
Moreover, undergraduates can bring a fresh perspective and energy to your research. How to get started Step 1: Find students. Many O. R. Programs don’t have undergraduates, but there is untapped talent residing in engineering, mathematics and management departments. These students gravitate eagerly to O. R. ‘s mathematically interesting ND practical problems. Advertising research opportunities to other departments can attract technically sophisticated students who might be wondering what to do next. Step 2: Advise the research.
Advising undergraduate research is qualitatively very different from advising graduate students. Critical to success are choosing a project that is appropriate for the student’s level (and timeshare) and communicating expectations clearly and frequently to the students. Most undergraduates need frequent meetings with an advisor to help nudge them out of the inevitable ruts. The Council on Undergraduate Research has a few publications on effective mentoring of undergraduate research . Step 3: Involve your students in publicizing the research.
Academics know the importance of effectively communicating research results, yet many students leave college with weak written and oral communication skills. Research provides a great context in which students can learn to communicate effectively. Requiring undergraduate researchers to write a technical report is important for their growth, as well as for the continuity of the project after they leave. As an incentive, there are several undergraduate research Journals in which such work might be published , and some undergraduate research is worthy of top research Journals.
OR/MS Tomorrow also hosts a student paper competition . Undergraduates can gain experience in presenting research and networking by attending professional meetings. Www says of her participation at INFORMS, “l gained knowledge of the current research going on in the field and developed a clearer idea of the quality and methodology of research in O. R. ” National and regional mathematics meetings offer special programming specifically for undergrads, including well-attended poster and contributed sessions . O. R. Projects are welcomed in these sessions.
Within our own organization, INFORM-DE plans to host another undergraduate Research assonance next year, Ana we nope Tanat t expand in the future. Additionally, many colleges host undergraduate research conferences [8, 9]. Step 4: Make undergraduate research part of our culture. To do this, we need: * Greater undergraduate participation at the INFORMS Annual Meeting. Financial support in the form of travel funds for students, competition prizes, and sessions geared towards undergraduates would help. Recognition of faculty involvement in undergraduate research.
This is already a promotion criterion at many undergraduate colleges, but faculty (especially Junior faculty) at universities might need an incentive to advise undergraduate research. * Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUSE) in O. R. NSF ERE sites are summer programs in which faculty advise a cohort of students on research projects sharing a common theme. Additionally, ERE supplement grants can support undergraduate researchers involved with existing NSF-funded projects. More REUSE devoted exclusively to O. R. Could attract many math and engineering majors into the field.