dents (NRC, 1997b). They can gain experience working as part of a team and learn effective oral and written presentation of scientific results. A written thesis as a product of the undergraduate research experience can be an opportunity for a student to learn to review a field and coherently describe his or her contribution. Such undergraduate research sometimes leads to peer-reviewed publications and student presentations at national and international scientific meetings. While the richness of experience for the student likely will not be the same as working in a research group, it also is possible to provide meaningful research experiences for undergraduates in research-based courses or in teaching laboratories that are designed to be open-ended and to encourage independent investigation.
At smaller schools, undergraduates often work directly with a faculty member or in a research group consisting of a faculty member and other undergraduates. At larger institutions, such as research universities, undergraduates become part of a research group along with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Early career faculty who have not yet built up large research groups can play a particularly effective role in providing research opportunities for undergraduates. Sometimes participation in research can even begin in formal laboratory courses, in which students become involved in the research of the teaching fellows, other students, or the faculty. While undergraduates can derive much education and inspiration from these advanced students, it is important that they still have significant interaction with their faculty mentors. Undergraduates should in all cases play a full role, giving oral reports to the group on their research and participating in all group seminars and social events.
It is important for institutions to realize that the time faculty spend mentoring undergraduates in the laboratory is teaching and should be recognized as such. This is a particularly important issue for pretenure faculty. The faculty investment in mentoring and guiding student research represents a large commitment of time and resources. This must be recognized as an important teaching responsibility and integrated into the overall workload of the faculty member. At the same time, students should receive appropriate course credit for their research. The National Research Council’s Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering (NRC, 1997a) can assist faculty in this important role.
Undergraduate research is a discovery-driven effort that must be carried out in the setting of a strong and supportive natural science community. A key factor in the program is the close professional partnership be-