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Integrating Research Into the Curriculum

The benefits of undergraduate research for students are well-documented. However, there isn’t capacity for every student to engage in one-on-one mentored research. The only way to ensure that all students have access to undergraduate research is to include research projects in the curriculum through Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs).

First generation and underrepresented students are less likely to seek out undergraduate research opportunities. Many nontraditional students often lack the time to commit to activities outside the classroom. Course-based research helps address this issue of educational equity.

What is a CURE?

A CURE is a research project embedded in a course that involves all students.

Key Aspects of a CURE:

  • Research embedded into the course curriculum and all students engage in the research project
  • Students work collaboratively on the project
  • Research projects introduce students to the research methodology of the discipline
  • Outcomes of the research are unknown and have the potential to contribute to a larger body of knowledge in the discipline
  • The work students do build off previous work and involves trouble shooting, problem-solving or repeating aspects of the work to progress
  • Student outcomes of the research are communicated in some manner

Setting Up a Research Culture in the Classroom

To provide a meaningful experience for students, here are some important points to consider.

  • Introduce current research in the discipline: Students should understand how the body knowledge in their discipline is obtained and learn about current research.
  • Give students opportunities to develop research skills and techniques: If students are to collect data for an original research project, they should have the opportunity to develop necessary skill required.
  • Engage students in research discussions: Students become more comfortable with the research process when they have the opportunity to engage in research discussions
  • Set high expectations: To maximize growth, students should be allowed to struggle productively.
  • Create a respectful and safe environment: Respect is for students is shown by the professor’s belief in the students’ abilities. A safe environment is created when a student feels comfortable taking risks even if the risks may result in failure
  • Communicate clearly and often the benefits the research experience: Students will likely experience anxiety so it is important to communicate why the research experience is important in their education

“Examination of well-developed CUREs has indicated that students and faculty gain similar benefit from this experience as to individualized UR experiences. CUREs also can provide an earlier entry point into research because they can be taken along with coursework that supports the project, whereas individualized UR experiences tend to require students to bring a higher level of disciplinary competence to the beginning of a project.”

 (Vandermaas-Peeler et al., 2018)

My Experience with CUREs

My research focuses on the ecology of dwarf mistletoes (DM), a plant that parasitizes conifers. I was interested in examining whether different species of DM have different effects on their hosts. The first time I taught Plant Ecology, we set out to quantify the effect of infection of DM on Colorado Piñon. Students participated in the study design, collection, and analysis. We examined effects on growth, reproduction, and bark attributes. Students worked in three corresponding groups to present the results. Following the course, two students continued to work on a specific aspect of the study as an independent research project. They identified a more robust measurement of reproduction which I was able to incorporate the next time I taught the course. Each time I taught the course, we studied a different DM-host complex and each year resulted in an independent research project for one or two students. Each time, students came up with unique measures and interpretations. It was exciting to hear the many fresh and different perspectives and prompted me to look at the system in a new light. The results of these projects eventually culminated in a manuscript that is currently in preparation for publication.

-Kristy L. Duran, PhD | Faculty Director of Undergraduate Research


Resources

Hensel, N.H. (Ed.). (2018). Course-Based Undergraduate Research: Educational Equity and High-Impact Practice.Virginia. Stylus Publishing & Council on Undergraduate Research

Vandermaas-Peeler, M.V., Miller, P.C., & Moore, J.L. (Ed.). (2018). Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research. Washington D.C. Council on Undergraduate Research

CUREnet Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience