In this paper we describe a joint Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program focused on energy and sustainability topics within a Materials Science and Engineering program at a public university. This program brought ten undergraduate science and engineering students and five local middle and high school teachers on campus for an 8-week research experiences working with different lab groups. Given the relatively small number of participants, we chose qualitative interviews as our primary source of data for assessing the effectiveness of this program. The participants identified numerous positive aspects of participating in the summer research program. Students appreciated the sense of community they developed with both the other participants in the research program and the other members of their lab groups. Although most of the participants did not report the summer research experience as having a strong influence on their decisions to pursue graduate school or careers involving research, they did report both being more confident in their ability to be successful as a researcher and appreciating the opportunity to learn more about the practice of engineering research in an academic setting. For the teachers involved in the program we describe how participation influenced their leadership, perceptions of adoption educational innovations, and willingness to provide more opportunities to engage their students in authentic STEM research. The participants also provided several recommendations for improvement to the summer research program. For the students, these included more materials in advance and a more streamlined onboarding process to allow them to get up to speed on their projects more quickly, consistent access to their supervisors, and work that is intellectually challenging. Suggestion from the teacher participants for improvement mostly involved requests for more guidance on how to incorporate what they were learning in their research into lessons for their classrooms. By describing this program and the successes and challenges encountered by the participants and organizers, we intend to help others considering implementing REU/RET programs or other summer research experiences to design and implement successful programs.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/rick_ubic/104/