South Puget Sound Collaborative Undergraduate Research Experience

Project summary

A seminar course during the 2016-2107 academic year paired two-year college students with mentors from a variety of sectors to conduct original research. Partners, guest speakers, and field trips were coordinated in the summer of 2016. In the fall, students met weekly to learn about research topics and research skills, such as how to read a journal article. Students developed research proposals and began their research in the spring, reporting their progress during the seminar classes. At the end of the school year, students presented posters at a session that was open to the campus and community partners.


  1. Sixteen students from SPSCC participated in an undergraduate research experience. Twelve students presented posters at the year-end poster session. Approximately 100 students, faculty and community members attended the year end poster session.
  2. Fourteen of the participating students will be continuing their education in a STEM pathway during the 2017-2018 school year.
  3. Robert Lewis gave eleven students and three SPSCC faculty member a tour of Dragon Analytical Laboratories. Dragon Analytical offered to assist in analyzing samples and provided an ongoing paid internship opportunity to one of our students.
  4. Ten students participated in setting up a study plot on the SPSCC campus. Dr. Ruth Fitzpatrick from Spokane Community College facilitated. Community guests who attended seminars included Dr. Amy Yahnke from Washington State Department of Ecology, Dr. Ruth Fitzpatrick, and Stephanie Bishop from South Sound Green. Dr. Arwyn Smalley brought a group of students from Saint Martin's University to use our AAS, our students received a working demonstration of the instrument.
  5. A new partnership was developed with ComGen, Spokane Community College, and Save the Redwoods. This new partnership will provide opportunities for future students to participate in a longitudinal research project. The administration is supportive of the program and has committed funds to financially support projects and a poster session for the 2017-2018 school year.

Most successful aspect

Students who participated became a strong support network for one another. Many faculty members from SPSCC got involved and developed meaningful mentoring relationships with the students. Retention in the majors sequences was high for students who participated in undergraduate research. Our AAS was brought online and was used by Saint Martin's University students and by some of our undergraduate research students in their projects.

Tips for similar projects

  • Scaffold lessons to teach students how to design their experiments. There were challenges in translating students’ proposed projects into meaningful experiments.
  • Most of the students in the cohort were in their first year of study. It is a challenge to develop research projects appropriate for students who are just beginning their science education. Find existing projects, including citizen science, that students can join.
  • There may be issues with financial aid and third-party tuition payors: We created two credit bearing courses, UGR 214 and UGR 294. Most students need a full year, or three terms, to complete their project. Even though the courses allow students to repeat for credit, students were unable to get financial assistance during the spring term to register for a course they were repeating. 

Next steps

We'd like to more get students placed in internships and are looking to form additional partnerships.We have an ongoing need for funding and need to identify a new sources. We are working on recruiting additional faculty member to participate.

Materials produced

Youtube ID: 9LxPcm4GtV0

SPSCC faculty members Lynette Rushton and Sidnee-Marie Dunn talk about developing the opportunity for undergraduate research for SPSCC students. What started out as a one-year project, funded by the Exceptional Faculty Award, will become a year-long class where students can develop projects in their area of interest, network with local research facilities and learn the skills they'll need to be ahead as they continue their undergraduate careers.

Youtube ID: rABputIox6M

SPSCC student Gilbert Reyes uses an independent research project to get started on research he wants to use as he earns his Bachelor's Degree.

Youtube ID: Z3jmSkQTbMM

SPSCC students talk about their independent research project to insert genes into e. Coli and how their project is helping prepare them for future work in research. Independent research opportunities at SPSCC give students the chance to learn research skills and be a step ahead when transferring into 4-year programs.

Youtube ID: 6BfLYGDWdoQ

Jeremie and Alex are tackling college as a family. The father and son are both earning their degrees at SPSCC. And while they are at different places in their college careers, they are both interested in science and involved in independent research at the school.