Integrating and Scaffolding Research into Undergraduate STEM Curricula: Probing Faculty, Student, Disciplinary, and Institutional Influences

Pathways to Transformational Change – National Science Foundation (16-25354)


Major Goals of the Project

The CUR Transformations Project is intended to address an urgent need in the undergraduate science community to connect faculty research activities to the curriculum in ways that will lead to a research-rich curriculum for students.  Seen through the lens of undergraduate research, science curricula provide an amazing number of opportunities for enriching student experiences on a larger scale than one-on-one research mentoring experiences can provide.

The overarching goal of this project is to work intensively with 12 institutions and 24 departments over a sustained period to conduct fundamental research on student, faculty, departmental, and disciplinary influences on the process of integrating and scaffolding undergraduate research experiences throughout the curriculum. We will also pursue departmental and school/college-wide transformations in student learning and the learning environment at the 12 partner institutions. The sustainability of these changes will be further enhanced by assisting institutions to integrate research-based curricula into student and faculty cultures and reward systems and by developing expanded undergraduate research assessments, including the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) instruments.

To accomplish this goal, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) will team with Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research, an international leader in studies of high-impact educational practices. Since 1996, CUR has worked with more than 600 academic institutions to help integrate deeper levels of undergraduate research into their educational processes and campus strategic plans. Almost without exception, two interconnected objectives described in each campus plan have been to focus on the curriculum to make it more research-rich and to change the academic culture to support sustained and scaled-up success of a greater number of students, faculty, and institutions. Achievement of these integrated objectives requires a college-wide approach, orchestrated through departments, and a deep understanding of each discipline’s curriculum design and culture.


Participating Disciplines/Departments

We will work with four disciplines/departments in this project: biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology. We have selected these disciplines for several reasons. First, one of our research questions is “How do different STEM departments effectively integrate the components and outcomes of high-quality UGR to reach more students?” As such, we need to limit the number of disciplines that we’re working with in order to ensure that we have a robust enough sample size of each discipline. Moreover, we want to ensure that there is a large enough cohort of each discipline involved in the project, so that those disciplines/departments from different institutions can have rich interactions and learn from each other, provide a supportive network for each other, and serve as exemplars for the broader community to ensure long-term sustainability of project outcomes.

Project contacts/PIs

Professor of Chemistry
University of San Diego
San Diego, CA 92110
Phone: 619-260-4032
Kerry K. Karukstis
Ray and Mary Ingwersen Professor and Chair of Chemistry
Harvey Mudd College
301 Platt Boulevard
Claremont, CA 91711
Phone: 909-607-3225
Dean, School of Science
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
Ewing, NJ 08628-0718
Phone:  609-771-2724
Former Executive Officer
Council on Undergraduate Research
734 15th Street, NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-783-4810 x 201
Center for Postsecondary Research
Indiana University School of Education
1900 E 10th St., Suite 419
Bloomington, IN 47406
Phone: 812-856-1430

Updates to the Project

If you were not selected to move forward with a full proposal or missed the preproposal extended deadline, please read the Spring (March) 2017 Update for helpful information that you can use. 


Application Process, Target Cohort, and Selection Criteria

We expect that many institutions will apply, and selection to participate will be very competitive. Our target cohort of participant institutions includes those that have already made a clear commitment to UGR (i.e., have infrastructure and faculty/administrative buy-in in place) and have significant capacity for change. However, they will not yet have a mature, research-rich curriculum in place but will be committed to comprehensive curricular change and poised to move toward this goal. This selection criterion will ensure that all participating institutions are at a common stage of development, which is essential for our research design.
To achieve a well-balanced and diverse group of participating institutions (e.g., public/private, geography, size, mission/Carnegie classification, student demographic served), we will utilize a three-stage application process with (1) a preproposal stage, (2) an invited full-proposal stage, and then (3) an invited interview stage. Such a multistage process has been very effective in our past projects in achieving a diverse balance of highly qualified institutions.
Our selection criteria will include:
  • A commitment for long-term, sustained engagement;
  • A clear statement of the current state and future goals for institutionalizing UGR within the two STEM departments and across the entire institution, including an environmental scan/self-assessment benchmarked against CUR’s Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research;
  • A deep commitment to, and history of, significant change;
  • Two STEM departments/disciplines committed to participating and sustained engagement;
  • A demonstrated need and readiness of the departments and the institution for participation in this integrated curriculum, workload, and leadership project;
  • Strong administrative support through the direct participation of deans and/or provosts in the institutional team (i.e., those with resource allocation responsibility);
  • Strong faculty support and direct participation of chairs, course coordinators, and curriculum committee members; and
  • Identification of the departmental team leaders and team members, with the clear commitment to multiple layers of “nested leaders” involved in the planning and implementation stages, including provision for non-tenure-track faculty leadership and participation.
Webinar Information

Application to Participate in the CUR Transformations Project

CUR, with funding from the National Science Foundation, is inviting proposals from colleges and universities to participate in a four-year project to create cohesive, research-based undergraduate curricula in four science disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology. [JO1] 

Download the complete “Request for Institutional Proposals” with detailed information about the CUR Transformations Project Application 

Applicants had an opportunity to complete the optional “Expression of Interest to Apply”

Preproposals application were due by 5:00 pm local time, Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Timeline for Selection of Institutions

Twelve institutions (and two departments/disciplines from each institution) will be selected to participate in the CUR Transformation project.  The recruitment and application process includes four stages: (1) an open, national call for proposals to participate, (2) an open preproposal stage, (3) an invited full-proposal stage (not all institutions will be invited to submit full-proposals), and (4) an invited interview stage.  Key dates are summarized below.

Rolling – Optional expression of interest to apply

February 10, 2017Informational Webinar for institutions interested in submitting a proposal to participate

March 6, 2017 – Preproposal due date

March 15, 2017 – Institutions invited to submit full proposals

May 1, 2017 – Full proposal due date

May 15, 2017 – Institutions invited for video interviews

June 1, 2017 – Institutions selected

October 2017 – Kickoff meeting


Call for Consultants

The deadline to apply has passed.

The CUR Transformations Project is an NSF-funded grant to assist departments and institutions in creating research-based curricula that support their undergraduate research activities. As part of its work with 12 higher education institutions and 24 departments involving biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology, the project expects to assign two consultants to work with each department over the four-year project period. Needed for the consultant positions are CUR members with a history of undergraduate research activities, curriculum design experience, and facilitation experience. 

Applicants should submit her/his proposal electronically (with all elements combined into a single PDF file) by 5:00 pm Monday, April 10, 2017.

Applicants must be individual members of CUR at the time of selection as a consultant. Complete applications include three elements: 1. an online form with background information, 2. a narrative proposal, and 3. a current CV.

  1. The narrative proposal should range from 3-6 pages in length (single spaced, 1” margins, no smaller than 11 pt font size), and it should include the following:
  2. The academic discipline(s) with which you have expertise to serve: biology, chemistry, physics, psychology. STEM undergraduate education (e.g., undergraduate curricular reform, higher education change, scholarship of teaching and learning, etc).
  3. An indication of your commitment to participate in the full, four-year length of this project as summarized above.
  4. A description of your overall experience in undergraduate research.
  5. A list/description of:
    • Your leadership experience (institutional and professional).
    • Your consultation/facilitation experience.
    • The major change initiatives that you have been involved in and/or led.
    • Curricular reform initiatives that you have been involved in and/or led.
    • Faculty leadership and faculty workload initiatives that you have been involved in and/or led.
    • Assessment initiatives that you have been involved in and/or led.
  6. A description of your approach to facilitating conflict-resolution.
For further details, review the Call for Consultants.