2018 SSG Projects

In the second year of SSG grants awards, five projects were funded totaling to $137,300.

Projects Awarded (2018)

Lead  Department


Co PI(s)

Integrating Disciplinary International Collaborative Experiences (DICE) into the Undergraduate STEM Curriculum

Computer and Information Technology

Rob Elliott

Leslie Bozeman

Extracurricular Projects to Enhance the Current Engineering Educational Paradigm

Mechanical and Energy Engineering

Alan Jones


Peer Assistant Role Models in a Graduate Computer Science Course


Evava Pietri

Snehasis Mukhopadhyay, Leslie Ashburn-Nardo

Indianapolis Metropolitan Area Chemist Community Outreach Program ("I M A" Chemist Program)

Chemistry & Chemical Biology

Tamiko Porter

Eric Long

Writing Support in STEM Education: Replication and Expansion of a Model to Improve Writing Support Tutor Training

Engineering Technology

Robert Weissbach

Corinne Renguette, Mary Frances Baechle, Matt Rothrock

Course Based Undergraduate Research Experiences in Biology


Kathleen Marrs

James Marrs

Project Title: Integrating Disciplinary International Collaborative Experiences (DICE) into the Undergraduate STEM Curriculum

PI: Rob Elliott, Senior Lecturer of Computer Information Technology, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI, elliott@iupui.edu

Abstract: Global industries such as Information Technology (IT) are actively building a workforce of professionals who can demonstrate global, international, and intercultural (GII) competencies in addition to their disciplinary expertise. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are responding to this and other concerns by implementing a broad swath of internationalization initiatives into their strategic plans and curricula. By far, the most visible effect of these efforts for students is related to student mobility – and most often with the vehicle of short-term study abroad programs. However, estimates show that fewer than 5% of undergraduate students can or are willing to take advantage of study abroad opportunities.

A variety of local globalization initiatives have attempted to widen the availability of globally-themed programming to students in HEIs without the need to leave their campuses. These local programs have been shown to have some impact on student GII competencies but have not been directly compared to the student outcomes from study abroad programs. This study proposes the direct comparison of a globally-themed IT project built into three different undergraduate IT classroom contexts: a project with an international focus and no interaction with students from a foreign university, the same project executed in teams of local students and students from a foreign university who collaborate via information and communication technologies (ICT), and a hands-on version of the course project that is implemented by local and remote students collaborating at a foreign university during a short-term study abroad program.

The investigators want to determine if such internationally-themed projects improve student GII competencies and examine any differences in those outcomes based on the classroom context in which the project is executed. The results of this study should prove valuable to a wide variety of HEIs, as it could provide evidence of the effectiveness of local globalization programs. Doing so could encourage more institutions to provide a wider variety of international engagement opportunities to the broad swath of students who are currently unable or unwilling to engage in study abroad programs.

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Project Title: Extracurricular Projects to Enhance the Current Engineering Educational Paradigm

PI: Alan Jones, Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, Associate Chair of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI, alsjones@iupui.edu

Abstract: This project will provide an alternative learning environment for junior students enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering curriculum. Up to fifteen students will be recruited to participate in the experimental curriculum, which will be referred to as research-students hereafter. The modified curriculum is focused on project-based learning involving three academic design competitions. The competition design and fabrication work will be part of the required coursework during the semester which will replace three courses, ME 34000 Dynamic Systems Analysis and Design, ME 37200 Design of Mechanisms, and ME 31400 Heat and Mass Transfer in the traditional ME curriculum. The three courses will be converted into a workshop format with short instructional videos and hands-on laboratories. Thus, providing the research-students with a hands-on, project based, self-motivated process for learning theoretical concepts based on the design and analysis goals of the academic competition project. This project-based learning method has been demonstrated for program level instruction but has not been used for a focused single semester experience. The students will take the same examinations from the related courses (standard ME 34000, ME 37200 and ME 31400) to demonstrate proficiency with the subject matter. Assessment Plan: A cross-sectional and a longitudinal study will be performed. The cross- sectional study will be a direct comparison of the research-students’ performance on written exams taken from the associated courses as compared to the traditional lecture-based course students’ performance on the same exams. The exams and comparison will be performed while the students are participating in the modified curriculum. The longitudinal study will consist of tracking the research-students’ grades in subsequent courses in the curriculum and comparing them to the average grade of their peers in those courses. In addition, two surveys, one at the start of the revised curriculum and one at that end, will be used to evaluate the students attitude and confidence in their engineering skills and capabilities.

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Project Title: Peer Assistant Role Models in a Graduate Computer Science Course

PI: Evava Pietri, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, School o Science, IUPUI, epietri@iupui.edu

Abstract: This proposal aims to develop and test a new intervention to recruit terminal Master’s students into computer science (CS) PhD programs and to enhance diversity in academic CS. We propose adding peer assistants (i.e., successful PhD students) to CSCI 549: Intelligent Systems, a popular course for Master’s students with approximately 60% women and 90% international students. Although there is a fair amount of diversity in this course and in IUPUI’s CS Master’s program (i.e., international female students), many of these students do not continue to earn a PhD, or get involved in research during the Master’s program. To address this issue, we anticipate that the PhD student peer assistants will not only help the Master’s students with in-class research projects, but will act as role models to promote Master’s students’ interest in CS research and PhD programs. We plan to assess whether compared to those in a control course, the intervention course encourages the Master’s students to have higher grades, feel more belonging and self-efficacy in academic CS, have greater value for CS research, and critically, report higher intentions to pursue a PhD in CS. Because role models are most effective when individuals feel similar to the role models, we also plan to explore whether certain PhD student peer assistants function as better role models for female international Master’s students. It is possible that international female Master’s students may be most inspired by PhD students who share multiple intersectional identities (i.e., are also international women).

Few studies have explored how to encourage diverse Master’s students to pursue research opportunities and PhD programs. However, because increasing the diversity of CS professors is critical for enhancing the diversity of CS majors and the CS workforce, it is important to test new methods to recruit Master’s students into academic CS. Moreover, much of the previous work exploring role model interventions for enhancing women’s interest in STEM has had majority White female samples and White female role models. The current proposal will address this limitation in the literature by testing who functions as a beneficial role model for international female students. Thus, this proposal will test new and innovative techniques for an enhancing diversity in academic CS and STEM generally.

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Project Title: Indianapolis Metropolitan Area Chemist Community Outreach Program ("I M A" Chemist Program)

PI: Tamiko Neal Porter, Lecturer, Academic Advisor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, School of Science, IUPUI, tnp@iupui.edu

Abstract: IUPUI institutional data indicate that despite our close proximity to a pool of potential inner city and metropolitan area STEM trainees, many of which are from underrepresented groups, the presence of these students in our programs is disproportionately minimal. In Chemistry, specifically, only 15 of the 795 students enrolled in the program over the last five years have come from Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). The long-term objective of this project is to increase the enrollment of underrepresented and economically disadvantaged high school students from inner city Indianapolis (and adjacent metropolitan area school districts) in the chemistry BS/BA programs at IUPUI. In parallel, we seek to determine why enrollment at IUPUI has been low from within these same groups with the intention of reversing this trend permanently.

The goals of our immediate efforts described here will be to generate the high school partnerships necessary to commence our study and prepare a competitive external NSF S-STEM proposal within two years. Our initial efforts will include a determination of the factors that influence the current recruitment and enrollment of students from these sources (by surveying IUPUI students enrolled from F2014 – S2018 and HS science faculty) and to begin to develop innovative strategies to increase connections between inner city high school students and their teachers with our programs and the discipline of chemistry in general. In particular, we seek to determine the impact of direct, recurring small group interactions with 10th-to-12th grade students from a cross section of inner city and township school districts on application rates to our program. We suggest that recurring interactions will more effectively foster student curiosity about chemistry and careers in science relative to traditional recruitment efforts. Accordingly, we hypothesize that what is currently missing in traditional recruitment efforts is the establishment of a close rapport between HS students and an identifiable “contact” chemist/faculty member that can act as a liaison to both the scientific discipline and also the university/department represented. The recurring interactions noted will take on multiple forms and occur at the participating high schools and on the IUPUI campus. Activities will be designed with input from high school teachers and will incorporate topics of high-interest to students. Recruitment “sales pitches” will be avoided completely when interacting with students. We suggest that the development of close rapport with students (and high school science faculty) will significantly increase applicant numbers from the targeted pools.

During the two-year project period we will: (1) identify interested school partners from the metropolitan Indianapolis area via contact with HS principals and their science teachers; (2) survey students currently enrolled in IUPUI programs that originated from the targeted schools (and a control cohort) to identify motivational factors that influenced their decision to enroll ultimately at IUPUI; and (3) develop, in cooperation with our HS partners, the lectures and demonstrations needed to support our recurring interactions. The effectiveness of our program will be assessed qualitatively (through surveys of participants, both teachers and students) and quantitatively (by the impact on enrollment numbers). This project will also allow for the collection of preliminary data to be used to prepare an NSF S-STEM proposal to request funding for scholarships for recruited students. Overall, we feel strongly that the strategies to be developed herein and the findings they lead to will not only provide numerous benefits to the community of central Indiana and to the mission of IUPUI but are also likely to translate to similar inner city-university STEM departments regionally and nationally.

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Project Title: Writing Support in STEM Education: Replication and Expansion of a Model to Improve Writing Support Tutor Training

PI: Robert Weissbach, Chair, Department of Engineering Technology, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI, rweissba@iupui.edu

Abstract: Technical communication is a critical skill for engineers, yet research and feedback from engineering alumni show that writing, in particular, needs to improve. Most universities have writing centers that employ peer writing tutors, a low-cost resource for students seeking writing support. However, these tutors often major in non-technical fields. Recent research, grounded in the framework of knowledge transfer, writing in the discipline, and peer tutoring, has shown that providing training to these non-technical tutors prior to meeting with the engineering students and reviewing their technical documents can improve the quality of the tutoring session. This research effort focuses on replication of the research results at IUPUC, expansion of the tutor training method towards tutors who already have either technical or technical communication backgrounds, and exploration of its future applicability to group-based reports. In addition, this research will look at student self-reported perceived value on the writing and revision process and the impact of the tutoring sessions on student writing. This research, in conjunction with research at another university, will provide important data towards wider dissemination of the tutor training method and its impact on STEM students’ technical communication skills.

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Project Title: Research-Based Implementation of CUREs in Biology

PI: Kathleen Marrs, Associate Professor, Director of Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship Program, School of Science, kmarrs@iupui.edu

Abstract:  Incorporating authentic research experiences into the undergraduate life science experience through the implementation of CUREs (course-based undergraduate research experiences) has been championed as a mechanism to provide a large numbers of students with access to the known benefits of undergraduate research. CUREs meet national calls for improvement of the undergraduate curriculum, allowing a wide variety of students to experience how science is done, and recent research indicates that CUREs have the benefit of increasing student persistence, motivation, identity, and success. Our Biology Department has made a number of significant advances towards these goals in recent years by implementing semester-long CUREs related to the use of model organisms (Zebrafish, C. elegans, blowflies) to study models human disease and genomics. Starting first with freshman introductory biology honors labs, we are moving towards the use of CUREs in cell biology, genetics and microbiology labs. While transformation and change is happening within our department, we have not yet undertaken a comprehensive evaluation of the aspects of CUREs that are necessary to achieve desired student outcomes, or evaluated our efforts at departmental transformation in any systematic way.

The objectives of this proposal are to (1) build on our department’s efforts in the last 3.5 years to incorporate CUREs into a variety of freshman, sophomore, junior laboratory courses, culminating with the senior research capstone (2) achieve the coordination of CUREs that span a common research topic throughout multiple courses in the undergraduate curriculum (3) implement recommendations and develop expertise for utilizing more varied assessment tools and strategies to assess how CUREs are correlated with student learning gains at IUPUI and (4) assess faculty perceptions of curricular gains from participation in CUREs as a way to move towards departmental change as well as bridging faculty teaching and research expectations.

The foundational pieces to reach these objectives are now in place. The PI of this proposal serves nationally as a faculty member charged with stimulating department-level transformation in life sciences education. The department has recently launched a postdoctoral teaching program and a departmental transformation plan to help meet the life science education reform recommendations. In the past 4 years, 8 biology faculty members key to our undergraduate teaching mission, including postdoctoral scholars, lecturers and professors of all ranks, have participated in the HHMI Summer Institutes. A novel aspect of this proposal is that we are fully in a position to assess the effects CUREs on student outcomes, departmental change efforts and outcomes, and can move swiftly towards assessment and research findings. The broader impacts from this proposal will allow us to evaluate both evidence-based and evidence-generating approaches towards understanding STEM learning, as well departmental transformation efforts that will be needed for future national funding efforts for this work to continue.

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