Back to the Future

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Dr. Michael West
Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering
501 E Saint Joseph St,
Rapid City, SD 57701
Tel: (605) 394-1283
Fax: (605) 394-3369

Assessment Summary

REU: Back to the Future

A primary focus of the REU program is to develop the research capacity of young men and women by providing an opportunity for students to fully engage both intellectually and developmentally in a body of research by working closely with researchers in the field. For students involved with the REU Site successful programming should reflect greater persistence both at the undergraduate level and at the graduate level.  Students fully engaged in the research experience would have a stronger belief in their ability to conduct meaningful and independent research.  In addition to greater self-efficacy, students engaged in the program should exhibit greater confidence in the professional development component.  Specifically, an ability to engage professionally in a body research would be reflected in both oral and verbal communication skills.  Assessment components for the summer 2009 and 2010 include the following:

  • Establishment of a cohort group and tracking sheet for longitudinal tracking of REU participants
  • Completion of the Herrmann Brain Dominance Inventory
  • Completion of the Undergraduate Research Student Self Assessment (URSSA)
  • Assessment of student communication skills including a pre and post assessment
  • Focus group interviews with student participants during the final weeks of the REU program. 

A brief description of assessment results for each of the five instruments follows. 


The Back to the Future REU program has supported a diverse group of students from six different states.  Figure 1 below shows the home university program of the 30 students who have participated in the program thus far.  Home universities include: University of Tennessee Knoxville, Montana Tech, Michigan Technological University, South Dakota State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Grove City College, University of Nebraska Lincoln, University of Dallas, Black Hills State University, Grinnell College, University of St. Thomas, Scripps College, Union University, and the University of South Carolina.

2009 REU Participants

2010 REU Participants

2011 REU Particpants

Figure 1.  Geographic Location of REU Students; Summer 2009-2010

The program supported 20 men and 14 women as well as 8 American Indian, 1 African American, and 1 Hispanic students.  Demographic data is shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Demographic Data Showing Student Diversity in the REU Program.






Native American

African American


# Students



# Students





 Percentage of Female Students


Percentage of Minority Students Served by the program


Summary and Future Directions (2009-2011)

Assessments (REU SALG, Focus Groups, Herrmann Brain Dominance, and project report analysis), the Back to the Future REU demonstrated both strong intellectual content as well as positive reflections related to the overall research experience and continuation of their overall education.  Besides strong academic performance of the research content, the program demonstrated an ability to relate well to an intellectually diverse group of students.  In particular, women, while very capable, often do not relate as well to a pure research experience unless they see a greater good or societal benefit.  This REU provided a number of social networking and career development opportunities that women responded positively to.  These opportunities could be an area of strength for the future.  The second element is the universally positive response that students had with the communications component.  For many, this was a very different writing experience that resulted not only in stronger technical content but seemed to have a positive influence on the overall experience. 

Undergraduate Research Student Self Assessment

The Undergraduate Research Student Self Assessment is an NSF sponsored inventory specifically designed to address a number of issues of interest to undergraduate research.  The site is maintained at the SALG site ( ).  A total of 22 of the REU participants completed the URSSA survey. 

Question 1 related to average gains in thinking and working like a scientist.  Specific questions and average response scores (l=no gains, 5 = great gain) follow.  Figure 2 below shows a weighted average over the three year REU of participant perceived gains in 2009 and 2011 in thinking and working like a scientist as a result of the REU experience. 

Figure 2 Average Weighted Gain for 2009-2011 for Question 2 Sub-items

Question 2 responses relate to personal gains related to the research work.  Figure 3 below compares the average response for each item in question 2. 

Figure 3 Average Gain and Confidence Interval for Question 2 Sub-items

Question 3 relates to perceived gains in personal skills related to scientific research.  Figure 4 below shows a weighted average of perceived gains in scientific skills from 2009 through 2011. 

Figure 4 Average Gains for 2009- 2011 for Question 3 Sub-items

Question 4 of the SALG survey relates to changes in attitudes or behaviors as a result of participation in the REU experience.  Figure 5 below shows a weighted average of changes in attitudes for all participants in the 3 year REU program.  

Figure 5 Average Gains for 2009-2011 for Question 4 Sub-items

Figure 6 below lists weighted mean for 2009-2011 REU participants for overall research experience (1=N/A, 2=poor, 5=excellent).

Figure 6 Average Gains for 2009-2011 for Question 5 Sub-items

The two remaining questions tabulated from the URSSA are questions 7 and 8 related to the overall research experience.  The weighted means for 2009-2011 are shown in Figures 7 and 8 below. 

Figure 7 Average Gains for 2009-2011 for Question 7 Sub-items

Figure 8 Average Gains for 2009-2011 Question 8 Sub-items

Herrmann Brain Dominance Inventory

All students participating in the REU program completed the Herrmann Brain Dominance Inventory (HBDI).  Interest in this instrument is two-fold.  First, does the REU site tend to attract students with a stronger analytical thought process or does it attract an intellectually diverse group of students.  The latter may be an important consideration for some areas, particularly if there is a strong interest in under-represented populations.   A second interest in this instrument is to determine if the level of satisfaction with the REU experience is dependent on the thinking preference typology.  Focus group interviews for the summer 2009 and did not indicate any degree of correlation between a students typological profile and level of satisfaction.  Focus group interviews in summer 2010 showed a slightly higher level of satisfaction for students with a more prominent analytical (blue), but (with one exception) not to the extent that the program discouraged REU participants from considering graduate studies or careers in research.    The 2011 participants were more consistently analytical than the previous two summers which correlated slightly with focus group results indicating a slightly higher level of interest in research careers from the previous two summers.   Results from the HBDI for 2009 through 2011 participants are shown in Figure 9 below. 


a.  Team Composite Profile for 2009

b. Team Composite Profile for 2009

  1. Team Composite Profile for 2010
  1. Team Composite Profile for 2011

Figure 9.  HBDI Results from REU Participants (Summer 2009 - Summer 2011)

Figure 9(a) shows the combined team composite for REU participants for all three years of participants.  Figure 9(b) shows the team composite for 2009,  Figure 9(c) for 2010, and Figure 9(d) for 2011.  The blue circles denote typological preference for the men and the red circles denote the typological preference for the women.  Figure 9 shows that on average REU participants have a stronger leaning towards an analytical (blue) thought process.  However, it is also clear that the program tends to attract a fairly intellectually diverse group of student researchers.  This is commendable since this is not always the case.  Specifically, while first year engineering students are highly diverse, whereas graduating seniors often tend to concentrate in the analytical (blue) quadrant.  Since typology does not change significantly, such a shift would indicate a typological mismatch between a students interest and the program offering.  The fact that the REU program tends to attract diverse students, and that these same students display a generally positive view of research following the program, should be taken as a positive. 

The program supported 20 men and 12 women as well as 8 American Indian students.  One of the questions of interest is does the REU experience attract a different typology and are those difference reflected by gender or cultural differences.  We saw no significant typological differences between American Indian researchers and the general body.  We did, however, see significant typological differences between male and female researchers. 

The team composite for male REU participants (2009 through 2011) is shown in Figure 10.a.  The associated average typological kite for this demographic is shown in Figure 10.b.  The team composite and associated kite for women REU participants is shown in Figures 10.c and 10.d respectively.  Figure 10 shows that while men tend to have more dominant kites in the analytic (blue) or experimental (yellow) quadrants, women, while capable of this work, tend to have a more balanced typological profile.  This can be an important consideration as one begins to think about recruiting and retaining under-represented populations in different STEM disciplines.  While women participants were generally positive of the research experience for this particular REU, the 2010 participants were not as universally positive as were the 2009 participant and women participants in 2011 possessed more analytical profiles than previous summer participants.  While women were equally likely to exhibit  a positive REU experience within the focus groups, researchers with a stronger empathetic profile (red quadrant) were also less likely to see themselves in a research career.  While there is not sufficient evidence to indicate strong differences in attitudes as a function of typology, correlations between typology and focus group interactions indicate  that individuals with a stronger empathetic profile may relate better to a research interest if there is a perceived impact for a greater societal good. 

The data shown in Figures 9 and 10 is a flash file with an attached database.  The database was updated with each subsequent REU program.  Consequently, all plots composites and average kites can be explored on the fly.  Currently this file is maintained at .

  1. Team Composite for Male REU Participants
  1. Average Typological Kite for Male REU Participants

  1. Team Composite for Women REU Participants
  1. Average Typological Kite for Women REU Participants

Figure 10.  HBDI Results from REU Participants by Gender