Annandale Physics Professor Walerian Majewski was invited to participate at the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Convocation on Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum, May 11 to 13. Majewski was among a group of 50 faculty experts in early undergraduate research from 30 universities and four community colleges nationwide invited to develop a consensus paper to be submitted to the White House. The paper covered introducing discovery-based science experiences, beginning with first-year students, also at the community colleges.
Representatives from the National Research Council, NAS and the National Science Foundation were in attendance, as well as four invited students from the Washington, D.C. area who have participated in research. The idea is to use an academic year course-based format to introduce research for freshmen and sophomores, with an emphasis on those populations that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
This three-day convocation was a follow-up to the February 2012 report, “Engage to Excel,” from the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST 2012), urging the STEM education community and funding agencies to “advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses.”
PCAST found that “economic forecasts point to a need for producing, over the next decade, approximately one million more college graduates in STEM fields than expected under current assumptions.”
This new national initiative, which hopefully should boost the number of U.S. STEM specialists, is strongly supported by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), represented at the convocation by the OSTP Associate Director for Science Jo Handelsman.
Faculty described 12 existing college and university programs (almost all in biology) and found, that this jump-start in authentic research labs, instead of the standard cookbook labs, increased retention in STEM majors by 35 percent and doubled the STEM graduation rate.
Majewski submitted a report “Early Undergraduate Research Experiences in Physics for STEM NVCC Students,” presenting his successful model developed at a community college. In addition he posted a dozen of his group’s research presentations and reports on the convocation’s website and offered some of them to the participants in print.
Majewski is planning to create a NOVA Faculty Research Group to consider implementations of those ideas at the College, in different sciences and in engineering. These projects should be driven by the faculty research interests, using their doctoral and post-doctoral research experience.