Meeting Abstract

46.2  Thursday, Jan. 5  Involving underrepresented groups in undergraduate research: A case for required participation VIEYRA, M.L.*; GILMORE, J.A.; University of South Carolina Aiken; University of Texas Austin

Minorities and women are historically underrepresented in the sciences. Studies have shown that students who participate in undergraduate research are more likely to be retained in science. Underrepresented groups are less likely to participate in research so requiring undergraduate research as part of a degree program may be a viable means for engaging these students. USC Aiken requires all biology majors to conduct one semester of research. Students may also elect to participate in additional semesters of research. Biology freshman were asked to comment on the research requirement. Overall, a higher percentage of males indicated that they would elect to participate in independent research and had more favorable opinions of research as compared to the female students. 43% of Caucasian females said they would elect to participate in research and 70% had favorable opinions of research while 28% of minority females said they would conduct research and 39% had favorable opinions of research. Of the students who had favorable views of research but who would not independently participate, all were female or a minority. Alumni of the program were also surveyed. All of the Caucasian students indicated that they would have considered participating in research but only 20% of the African American students said that they would have participated if it had not been required. A review of actual research participation supports this. Only 9% of African American graduates since 2007 participated in research for longer than the required semester while 49% of the Caucasian students participated in two or more semesters of research. All of the alumni reported that their research experiences were worthwhile and fostered further interest in science. Several African American students cited their research experience as helping them decide to go to graduate school.