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Balancing Teaching and Research at PUIs. Mary M. Allen Wellesley College.

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balancing teaching and research at puis

Balancing Teaching and Research at PUIs

Mary M. Allen

Wellesley College


“We operate on the principle that undergraduate research is not only the essential component of good teaching and effective learning, but also that research with undergraduate students is in itself the purest form of teaching”

James Gentile in Academic Excellence”

M.P. Doyle, Editor, Research Corporation,


not research vs teaching
Not research vs teaching
  • Do research as part of teaching
    • in research lab -- one on one independent research
    • in class lab
  • The dichotomy need not exist
    • complement rather than conflict
why complement
Why complement?
  • Active scholars show students that they are part of a broad intellectual community
  • An enormous amount of teaching goes on during research
a definition of undergraduate research

A Definition of Undergraduate Research

“Undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”

CUR April Dialogue, 1997

benefits of ug research
Benefits of UG Research
  • Creation of new knowledge
  • Potential for enhanced learning and intellectual development for students
  • Productive research program for faculty
    • Peer-reviewed publication
    • Grants
    • Conference presentations
most important factors leading women to careers in science

Most important factors leading women to careers in science

A mentor

An undergraduate research experience

Pathways for Women in the Sciences

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation study


Important components and outcomes of an undergraduate education

The ability to:

To think logically

To communicate in both written and oral form

To analyze, evaluate and synthesize information

To make informed judgments

To collaborate on a team effort

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

develop a research supportive curriculum

Develop a research-supportive curriculum

Teach skills need for successful participation in a research project

Provide time and opportunities for students to carry out research

Integrate research and research-like experiences throughout

Engage students early in undergraduate research

time is the crucial problem
Time is the crucial problem
  • Teaching load and course preparation
  • Preparation supervision
  • Office hours
  • Time for independent research students
    • Individual time
    • Group meetings -- learn from each other
  • College service
some strategies to get research done

Some strategies to get research done

Involve undergraduates in research and design projects carefully

Start students in the summer

Try not to take only one student

Pair up experienced and inexperienced students on same project

Give each student her own subproject so each can feel ownership

more strategies to get research done

More strategies to get research done

Collaborate -- other disciplines and other institutions


Wingard, L.L, Miller, S.R., Sellker, J.M.L., Stenn, E., Allen, M.M. and Wood, A. M. 2002. Cyanophycin production in a phycoerythrin-containing marine Synechococcus strain of unusual phylogenetic affinity. App. Envir. Microbiol. 68:1772-1777.

Kolodny, N.H.,*Bauer, D, *Bryce, K, *Klucevsek, K., *Lane, A., *Medeiros, L., *Mercer, W., *Moin, S., *Park, D., *Petersen, J., *Wright, J., *Yuen, C., Wolfson, A.J., and Allen, M.M. 2006. Effect of nitrogen source on cyanophycin synthesis in Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6308. J. Bacteriol. 188:934-940.

*Stewart, T.J., Yau, J-H, Allen, M.M., Brabander, D.J., and Flynn, N.T. Impacts of calcium-alginate density on equilibrium and kinetics of lead(II) sorption onto hydrogel beads. 2009. Colloid Polym Sci. In Press. (published on-line, 19 June 2009).

more strategies to get research done18

More strategies to get research done

Try immediately for internal/INBRE research funds

Write research grants for external funding

have colleagues review

don’t get bummed out by rejection

Revise and resubmit

Think about Postdoc or RA funding

cur institute beginning a research program at a pui
CUR Institute -- beginning a research program at a PUI
  • mentor student researchers and develop and use their research skills
  • time management - balancing teaching, research and service activities
  • develop and select research projects appropriate for undergraduates
cur institute beginning a research program at a pui20
CUR Institute -- beginning a research program at a PUI
  • adapt to an undergraduate research environment vs. that of graduate school
  • link research to the classroom and
  • develop grantsmanship skills related to gaining external and institutional research support
some sources of information
Some sources of information
  • CUR (
  • Lopatto, D. 2004. What undergraduate research can tell us on research on learning. Project Kaleidoscope, Vol. IV: What works, what matters, and what lasts.
  • Lopatto, D. 2007. Undergraduate research experiences support science career decisions and active learning. CBE-- Life Sciences Education 6:297-306.
  • Vicens, Q and Bourne, P.E. 2009. Ten simple rules to combine teaching and research. PLoS Computational Biology 5(4):e1000358.