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Exploring the long-term academic and career impacts of undergraduate research in geoscience: A case study


Undergraduate research experiences (UREs) have been shown to facilitate students’ pursuit of graduate studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, including geoscience. Less is known about why or how UREs have a lasting impact on participants, particularly through graduate school and into careers. Furthermore, few studies have captured the views and experiences of former URE participants no longer in STEM. The present study used purposive sampling and semistructured interviews to explore the long-term academic and career impacts of a summer-long geoscience URE (4 to 7 years post-URE; M = 5.4) on 10 former participants: 4 in STEM graduate school, 4 in STEM careers, and 2 in non-STEM careers. During interviews, participants described key long-term URE impacts within three interrelated domains: research/science, graduate school, and careers. These came about through a combination of significant relationships (e.g., mentors) and heightened self-awareness (e.g., clarity of career aspirations), which participants developed during the URE. Often, participants spoke of seemingly proximal URE outcomes that retained or gained significance over time. For example, the URE offered immersive experiences (e.g., in laboratory science) and opportunities for professional development (e.g., programing) that gave participants insight and skills related to their future endeavors. Drawing on these emergent themes, we discuss the importance of examining long-term URE impacts towards a deeper understanding of their benefits and toward the design of more effective URE programs.


Trott, C. D., Sample McMeeking, L. B., Bowker, C. L., & Boyd, K. J. (2019). Exploring the long-term academic and career impacts of undergraduate research in geoscience: A case study. Journal of Geoscience Education68(1), 65-79.

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