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AAA3.03 - Undergraduate Research in Interactive Biomaterials at Syracuse University 
December 1, 2014   2:00pm - 2:15pm

At Syracuse University we have launched an REU Site on �Interactive Biomaterials� to train students in modern research techniques through independent biomaterials research projects in a multidisciplinary, collaborative, and open laboratory environment. We have sought to provide multi-faceted mentoring opportunities and network building experiences that may increase the likelihood that participants pursue graduate education in their chosen discipline. We also seek to train students to be effective communicators of their research to their peers and the scientific community. To do this, we have instituted interactive biomaterials research projects in faculty laboratories, one-on-one mentoring from faculty advisors and graduate student coaches, an innovative career mentoring program, interactive laboratory tours with REU student-led demonstrations, student research presentations, team building activities, and social events. With very careful �match-making� of students with mentors and project, we engage students in meaningful research, educational, and social experiences as to increase their enthusiasm and preparation for future graduate study and careers in biomaterials. Strengthened by a close collaboration with Hampton University, we broadened the participation of students from institutions with limited research opportunities, women, and underrepresented minorities in research. Further, we have woven into the program elements of career mentoring, with emphasis on both industrial and academic career paths at the PhD level, revealing the importance and benefits of graduate education in STEM disciplines. Research projects have spanned a wide range of topics to include shape memory polymers, drug delivery, control of bacterial biofilms, cell-biomaterial interactions, electrochemistry of metallic biomaterials, tissue engineering, and molecular modeling of interactive biomaterials. These multidisciplinary research projects draw upon the collective expertise of the faculty of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute and, in many cases, nucleate collaborative research across faculty laboratories, academic departments, and institutions. We have observed that graduate student mentors have, themselves, grown in their abilities to guide undergraduate researchers in planning and executing research and in effectively communicating the results. In addition, the undergraduate researchers emerge from the program with excellent training in the use of modern materials research instrumentation. In our presentation, we will provide several research highlights and then focus on student recruiting methods, the structure of our program, lessons learned, and best practices that we recommend for adoption by other materials-focused REUs. In addition, we will report on the assessment of our program as conducted using end-of-program surveys, leading to our suggestions for similar programs at other institutions.

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