NSF-Funded Best Practice Projects at Rutgers

From 2009-2014 the Graduate School received funding from the National Science Foundation (grant 0930134) to develop and study new best practices in graduate student professional development.

The NSF funding supported the development of new courses in Scientific Writing for graduate students, and new programs to teach mentoring skills. NSF funding supported summer research interns and graduate mentors working through RiSE at Rutgers (Research in Science and Engineering) or one of the several NSF funded Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) sites operating at Rutgers.  Funding from NSF supported helped graduate students contribute to the Science Explorer Bus, a novel outreach project organized by the School of Arts and Sciences Office of STEM education, and it initiated new workshops on career development, a practice that still continues.

Part of the NSF funds supported a set of small grants that were given to programs to support innovative projects. A partial list of these projects is below:

Seeing is Believing: Transitioning Incoming Students: Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program

Incoming graduate students face a series of hurdles, both professional and personal, as they integrate fully into graduate life.  To ease the transition of new students into our graduate program we organized three overnight trips over the course of the 2012-2013 academic year to the field stations in which our faculty and students regularly engage in research (Rutgers Marine Field Station, Rutgers Haskins Shellfish Research Laboratory, and The Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies).  The goals of these trips were to: (1) foster meaningful interactions between incoming students so that they can build a cohort that will help support them throughout their tenure at Rutgers, (2) foster significant interactions between incoming students and senior students, staff and faculty to reduce real or perceived social barriers between these groups, and (3) introduce incoming students to the facilities, faculty and staff of these field stations so that students may envision conducting their own research at these sites in the future.

Professional Development Workshops: Mathematics Graduate Program

Math organized panel discussions for graduate students, with panelists from Rutgers and local colleges, on career preparation and career paths, finding post-docs and jobs, and on preparing publications.  Panelists on career preparation and paths included women mathematicians.  We will also hold orientation workshops for incoming graduate students.

Professional Development Workshops: Anthropology Graduate Program

Anthropology expanded their workshops on professional preparation of graduate students by including outside visitors and by disseminating the activities more widely across Rutgers in order to involve other programs.  The workshops included discussions of publication strategies, personal matters, and information on careers in and outside of academia.

Graduate Student Mentor Training: Mechancial Engineering Graduate Program

Faculty from Mechanical Engineering trained a cohort of graduate student mentors to work with undergraduates in a project-based class.  The grad student mentors supervised project design and were available to consult on project execution and finally helped in evaluating the projects.

Community Outreach: Spanish and Portugese Graduate Program

Spanish and Portuguese developed an outreach program in the New Brunswick community with an undergraduate research component with graduate student mentors.  The outreach program addresses the social, cultural and educational aspects of bilingualism. It has been conceived as a natural community-oriented extension of previous work conducted on the linguistic development of bilingual populations. The program's main initiatives involve working in collaboration with non-profit organizations and cultural associations present in the local community. Its goals are to inform, educate, dispel myths, and discuss concerns with interested members of the community as well as to provide specific strategies and resources that can help parents and educators support literacy development in both languages.

Multigenerational Mentoring (MGM) Program: Sociology Graduate Program

The Multigenerational Mentoring (MGM) program matches undergraduate students with Sociology graduate student mentors who provide support in navigating students' undergraduate careers and planning for after graduation. At large universities, one-on-one mentoring can be hard to find, and the MGM program is designed to fill this gap. The program is open to sophomore and junior Sociology majors and minors, particularly those with strong interests in applying to graduate school in the social sciences. Undergraduate mentees will be matched with graduate student mentors based on academic and professional interests, as well as personal characteristics and preferences.

Career Seminars: The NeuroConnections Club

The NeuroConnections Club, a student organization bringing together graduate students, post-docs, and undergraduates united by an interest in neuroscience, have created a seminar series inviting Rutgers alumni to speak about their current research and paths to success in attaining rewarding positions in academia or industry following graduation from Rutgers University. The overall goal is to highlight the career options of Rutgers graduate and undergraduate students post-graduation.

Rutgers Education in Neuroscience Outreach and Instructional Resources (RENOIR) 

The Rutgers Education in Neuroscience Outreach and Instructional Resources (RENOIR) Program is a recently established, neuroscience-themed scientific education program that engages Rutgers graduate students in the professional development of New Jersey high school science teachers and in direct outreach to K-12 students. The goal is to demonstrate how neuroscience can be used to engage students, to demonstrate the scientific method, and to provide an interdisciplinary perspective that combines art, psychology, biology, and the physical sciences. Project AGER is enabling the program to develop a web portal that facilitates collaboration between graduate students and faculty in developing tools for RENOIR’s teaching training program and makes the program’s efforts more visible to potential collaborators inside and outside the University.

DIMACS Multidisciplinary Modules for High School Students
Engaging graduate students, these projects are developing modules in bio-math, computational thinking, and sustainability topics, as well as associated mini-modules and online texts. Details here.

Symposium: The Future of Drug Discovery Research: Perspectives from the Pharmaceutical Industry of New Jersey: Joint Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology.

A one-day symposium on non-academic careers in pharmacology with speakers from the local pharmaceutical industry.