Feature Stories

GLUE Progam Provides Undergraduate Students with First Research Experience

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July 8, 2014

The Graduates Linked to Undergraduates in Engineering (GLUE) program is a unique mentoring program established within the Cockrell School of Engineering (CSE) to promote the retention of undergraduate students in engineering and to provide undergraduate engineering students with their first research experience.  This mentoring program relies on one of the school's greatest assets – graduate student researchers who volunteer their time to work one-on-one with undergraduate students on a semester-long research project.  

Initiated by CAEE Professor Kerry Kinney and the Women in Engineering Program in 2002, the program began with 26 participants from three departments within the CSE. By 2014, nearly 600 undergraduate and graduate students from every department in the Cockrell School have participated.

This program targets second-year engineering students, particularly women, who have had no prior research experience. The program links each undergraduate with a graduate student mentor conducting research in their field of interest. These matches are often interdisciplinary in nature with graduate students in one field (electrical engineering or chemical engineering) working with an undergraduate student in another field (civil engineering), for example. Projects reflect the incredible variety of research being done in the CSE. For instance, some students are developing sound dampening walls while others are investigating nerve regeneration mechanisms.  

In addition to working on research, each undergraduate GLUE student participates in the GLUE seminar where they present the results of their research to their peers from across all departments and participate in the Undergraduate Research Poster Competition. They also learn about graduate school options as well as opportunities that an advanced degree makes possible in industry and academia.

The GLUE program has been quite successful at providing undergraduates with a hands-on introduction to their field and for providing meaning to the fundamental concepts they learn in first year courses.  It is also a valuable experience as they look for additional internship and research opportunities in their third and fourth years.

The GLUE course routinely receives exceptionally positive feedback from the undergraduates and the retention data indicates that nearly 90% of the undergraduate participants ultimately graduate with a degree in engineering. Over 30% of the undergraduate participants who have graduated from UT Austin plan to (or are) attending graduate school.

"This experience has made me consider grad school more than I had before. It also encourages me to try things that I never imagined just to see what my interests are. My project is very hands-on and keeps things interesting. This encourages me to work harder in my engineering classes," says a second-year CE student.

In fact, a few students who participated as undergraduates in the GLUE program are now graduate students volunteering as mentors.  Many of the graduate GLUE mentors have an interest in pursuing an academic career and have gone on to become faculty members and others to industry where they benefit from supervisory experience they gained as mentors.