WACO, TX – For the twenty-first year, Baylor University's Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering and Research (CASPER) played host to high-achieving undergraduate science students as part of the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. It was also the fifteenth year that CASPER hosted teachers in the REU's companion program, Research Experience for Teachers (RET).
Both programs are sponsored by the National Science Foundation, CASPER, the Greater Waco Aviation Alliance, the School of Engineering and Computer Science, the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics.
In 2014, eleven students and three teachers traveled to Baylor from across the nation to participate in the 10-week REU and eight-week RET programs. Three high school students also participated in summer research through CASPER's High School Scholars Program and the College of Arts and Sciences High School Summer Science Research Program.
CASPER director and vice provost for research at Baylor, Dr. Truell Hyde, looks forward to the program every year. Besides the enjoyment he gets from the energy and enthusiasm of each summer's group of young researchers, he sees it as a great talent-search opportunity.
"The competition for top-flight graduate students is fierce among research universities. REU participants arrive at Baylor both well qualified and highly recommended, so they represent a particularly rich pool of potential graduate students," Hyde said. "As a single representative example, Brandon Harris, a former REU fellow who participated in the CASPER program seven years ago, was awarded the PhD in physics at Baylor's August commencement."
During the summer, REU students conducted research in one of the seven research groups within CASPER under the direction of CASPER faculty from the departments of physics, mathematics, electrical and mechanical engineering and CASPER research faculty.
"The program combines fun, camaraderie, and the ups and downs of a real research experience," said CASPER researcher and professor of physics, Dr. Lorin Matthews. "It's always rewarding to see how much the students grow and learn throughout the summer."
RET fellows collaborated with Dr. Li Wang and Mr. Jorge Carmona-Reyes of CASPER's Education Outreach Group on a comprehensive new science-learning concept the CASPER group has under development. The teachers applied their many years of experience in classroom instruction, curriculum development, pedagogy and technical knowledge to expand and enrich the new learning system, which includes both online and on-site features. One innovative feature is an online science competition in which students compete to earn points that can help advance them to the "BRIC Bowl," a multi-activity science competition which, if funded, will held at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative or "BRIC," the discovery park that is home to CASPER and several other advanced research organizations.
"These teachers brought a lot of much-needed practical wisdom that improved and added momentum to the project," Carmona-Reyes said. "The amount and quality of research and planning they did in a very short time was impressive."
At the conclusion of the program, individual participants delivered twelve-minute PowerPoint summations of their research and took questions from faculty and other REU fellows. The summer's program was capped by a catered Mexican buffet dinner and awards presentation at The Palladium, a popular downtown events venue.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.