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Participation in Undergraduate Research Opportunities Increases a Student’s Interest in Obtaining a Ph.D.


MENLO PARK, Calif. - Nonprofit research institute SRI International has released the results of a large-scale, National Science Foundation-funded study assessing the benefits of undergraduate research opportunities.

The nationwide study evaluated the National Science Foundation’s current support for undergraduate research. Survey instruments, data tables, and analytical reports are available online at

The SRI study reviewed the demographic and academic characteristics of undergraduates who participate in undergraduate research opportunities, why individuals (faculty as well as students) choose to participate, the characteristics and components of undergraduate research opportunities, the effects of undergraduate research opportunities on students’ academic and career decisions, and whether different kinds of research experiences are more effective with some types of students than with others (e.g., minorities vs. nonminorities, men vs. women).

“We found that undergraduate research increases a student’s research-related understanding, confidence, and awareness, while increasing anticipation of a doctorate degree,” said Dr. Susan Russell, principal investigator of the study and senior researcher in SRI’s Center for Science, Technology, and Economic Development. “Based on these findings, SRI strongly encourages participation in undergraduate research opportunities and increased funding of these important academic experiences. We also recommend that greater attention be given to fostering curiosity and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math among elementary and high school students.”

The SRI study included four Web-based surveys conducted between 2003 and 2005, and involved almost 15,000 respondents as follows:

NSF initial survey: An NSF-program participant survey (undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral candidates, and faculty)
NSF follow-up survey: Two years later, a follow-up survey of undergraduate participants in the NSF survey
STEM survey: A nationally representative survey of individuals aged 22 to 35 who have received a bachelor’s degree in a “hard” science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM)
SBES survey: A nationally representative survey of individuals ages 22 to 35 who have received a bachelor’s degree in a social, behavioral, or economic science (SBES)


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