St. Mary’s College Team Excels at Council on Undergraduate Research Transformations Project

By Michael Bruckler

St. Mary’s City, MD– St. Mary’s College of Maryland was well represented and received at the second annual meeting of the Council on Undergraduate Research Transformations Project (CUR-T), funded by the National Science Foundation. The St. Mary’s College team attending the conference included Geoffrey Bowers, assistant professor of chemistry; Sabine Dillingham, director of research and sponsored programs; Nathan Foster, assistant professor of psychology; Cynthia Koenig, associate professor of psychology; Pamela Mertz, professor of chemistry & biochemistry; Kelly Y. Neiles, assistant professor of chemistry; and Christine Wooley, associate dean of curriculum

The CUR Transformations Project aims to understand and incorporate successful strategies to integrate high-quality undergraduate research (UGR) throughout four-year undergraduate STEM curricula. St. Mary’s College’s contribution to this ambitious nation-wide endeavor focuses on undergraduate research integration in the disciplines of psychology and chemistry & biochemistry, and has a committed team of 16 faculty and administrators working toward this goal.

The 2018 annual meeting allowed all 12 institutions participating in the CUR-T project to highlight their progress toward achieving project goals, in which the St. Mary’s College psychology and chemistry/biochemistry teams excelled. Each team works to create a more research-rich, connected, and scaffolded curriculum, and contributes to two major research questions: 1) What effect do student characteristics (e.g., preexisting academic preparation) have on scaffolded integration of UGR into the curriculum and student learning outcomes? 2) How do different STEM disciplines/departments effectively integrate the components and outcomes of high-quality UGR to reach more students? The CUR-T principal investigators received NSF funding to answer these pertinent questions in order to advance the academy’s understanding of effective teaching and learning and the disciplinary and cultural factors necessary for curricular integration and transformation.  

One major challenge identified by all CUR-T participants is how best to address appropriate curricular integration of research with faculty workload. Finding potential solutions to this challenge is of particular interest in light of St. Mary’s College’s ambitious and timely core curricular reforms. To this end, Jeffrey Osborn, one of the CUR-T NSF principal investigators who has much expertise in curricular reform and integration of faculty workload, has been invited to participate in the annual spring research forum, “Research Excellence Workshop,” on January 11, 2019.

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