University of Texas professors highlight freshman research program at SXSWedu

University of Texas at Austin faculty share results of the Freshman Research Initiative during the SXSWedu Conference and Festival 2016 on March 7.

University of Texas at Austin faculty share results of the Freshman Research Initiative during the SXSWedu Conference and Festival 2016 on March 7.

Four University of Texas at Austin educators discussed how students in an undergraduate research program are more likely to graduate and more likely to major in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields at opening day of the SXSWedu Conference & Festival on March 7.

The UT Austin College of Natural Sciences funds the Freshman Research Initiative, which gives STEM students early exposure to hands-on research projects and has grown from a few dozen students to nearly 900 with a wait list, said FRI Director Stacia Rodenbusch.

There are more than two dozen research tracks under the FRI program including Microbe Hackers, in which students re-engineer bacteria to discover things about the natural world, and System Security, which focuses on computer security.

Erin Dolan, executive director of the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science at the College of Natural Sciences, said FRI students are more likely to graduate and to major in STEM fields than non-FRI students because the program allows them to learn by doing, develop skills that are useful outside the classroom and attain a sense of project ownership.

“We're really excited that FRI students are more likely to graduate within six years,” Dolan said. “We think FRI is a important mechanism to respond to the call for STEM graduates.”


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