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CenUSA Bioenergy Internship

Brandi Geisinger serves as the lead evaluator for the USDA-funded CenUSA Bioenergy Internship program, which is an eight-week research program that helps address the bioenergy value chain. Guided by the faculty, postdocs and graduate students, undergraduates become a part of a team involved in areas that address critical, long-term national needs of the emerging bioeconomy, such as 1) Feedstock Development, 2) Field-Level Sustainability, 3) Logistics, 4) Policy-Level Sustainability, 5) Feedstock Conversion Economics, 6) Markets and Distribution, and 7) Health and Safety.


The evaluation of the CenUSA program utilizes pre-program and post-program surveys and post-program focus groups. The evaluation was informed by other studies of undergraduate student researchers and outcomes, as well as best practices for evaluation (Bauer & Bennett 2003; Brew 2003; Cobb 1994; Eagan et al. 2011; Gonzalez-Espada & LaDue 2006; Haen et al. 2012; Handelsman et al. 2005; Hathaway et al. 2002; Lopatto 2004; Lopatto 2007; Pascarella & Terenzini 2005; Russell 2004; Russell et al. 2007; Sadler et al. 2010; Seymour et al. 2004; Zydney et al. 2002). Impacts of the evaluation include gaining an understanding of the value of the CenUSA program in preparing undergraduate students to attend graduate school in related fields, and supporting and encouraging data collection activities that demonstrate the impact of the program and provide guidance for program improvement.

Evaluation References

Bauer, K. W., & Bennett, J. S. (2003). Alumni perceptions used to assess undergraduate research experience. Journal of Higher Education, 74(2), 210-230.

Brew, A. (2003). Teaching and research: New relationships and their implications for inquiry based teaching and learning in higher education. Higher Education Research and Development, 22(1), 3-18.

Cobb, P. (1994). Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematical development. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 13-20.

Eagan, M. K., Sharkness, J., Hurtado, S., Mosqueda, C. M., & Chang, M. J. (2011). Engaging undergraduates in science research: Not just about faculty willingness. Research in Higher Education, 52(2), 151-177. doi: 10.1007/s11162-010-9189-9

Gonzalez-Espada, W. J., & LaDue, D. S. (2006). Evaluation of the impact of the NWC REU program compared with other undergraduate research experiences. Journal of Geoscience Education, 54(5), 541.

Haen, K.M., Raman, D. R., Polush, E., & Kemis, M. (2012). Training the next generation of creative, innovative, and adaptive scientists and engineers: The NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) Research Experience for Undergraduates. Education for Chemical Engineers, 7, e230-e240.

Handelsman, M. M., Briggs, W. L., Sullivan, N., & Towler, A. (2005). A measure of college student course engagement. The Journal of Educational Research, 98(3), 184-192.

Hathaway, R. S., Nagda, B. A., & Gregerman, S. R. (2002). The relationship of undergraduate research participation to graduate and professional education pursuit: an empirical study. Journal of College Student Development, 43(5), 614-631.

Lopatto, D. (2004). Survey of undergraduate research experiences (SURE): First findings. Cell Biology Education, 3, 270-277.

Lopatto, D. (2007). Undergraduate research experiences support science career decisions and active learning. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 6(4), 297-306.

Pascarella, E. T. & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Russell, S. H. (2004). Evaluation of NSF support for undergraduate research opportunities. SRI International.

Russell, S. H., Hancock, M. P., & McCullough, J. (2007). Benefits of undergraduate research experiences. Science, 316, 548-549.

Sadler, T. D., Burgin, S., McKinney, L., & Ponjuan, L. (2010). Learning science through research apprenticeships: A critical review of the literature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(3), 235-256.

Seymour, E., Hunter, A.-B., Laursen, S., & DeAntoni, T. (2004). Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates: First findings from a three-year study. Science Education, 88, 493-594.

Zydney, A. L., Bennett, J. S., Shahid, A., & Bauer, K. W. (2002). Impact of undergraduate research experience in engineering. Journal of Engineering Education, 91(2), 151-157.

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