Research Continuity

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  • 1.  Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-19-2020 15:28
    Hi all,

    One big challenge for me is how to work with undergraduate research assistants while campus is closed down for the foreseeable future.

    Normally, we have our students come to the lab during set shifts of time to help with testing and other lab activities. Usually we pair a newer student with a more senior student to help both work through the various activities involved with conducting our research.

    With data collection slowing down significantly, and with students often moving back to live with their families, I recognize that the model of what the lab experience will be like has to change drastically. 

    Some questions that I am thinking through:
    1) Do we give different kinds of activities to students who are working in the lab for credit versus working in the lab as a volunteer? Normally we treat both groups mostly the same (with a little more flexibility for volunteers if they're worked in the lab before). That said, it seems like this is going to be a hard time for many students. My intuition is that I should think about the lab work that needs to get done and assign it to the credit-seeking students, pulling volunteers in less often or having them be on hold except for lab meetings. 

    2) How can we make it easier for RAs to work from home? For instance, our main tasks right now are going to be a) transcribing, b) coding, and c) double checking transcribing and coding. We will also have some data entry at some point, but I am thinking that data entry will be challenging with everything online, and that I should data entry tasks for myself or my most senior lab members.

    3) How do we promote a positive lab community when we don't have the joy of working together regularly? 

    Thanks for any advice you might have!

    Candice Mills
    The University of Texas at Dallas
    Twitter: @CandiceMMills

  • 2.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-19-2020 15:52
    These are great questions that we are all struggling with.... I agree research for credit is different than volunteering. I have thus reached out to individual volunteering students to give them the option of discontinuing the research or continuing, given I do not know how each student is responding to the current situation and I feel they should determine if they are able to continue.  However, I have not changed our expectations at all: I tell students we still expect 10 hours per week (our standard) and research of high quality and care and we continue our inter-observer reliabilities.

    We have our videos and data manuscripts and so forth on secure servers with remote access, so students can log in and continue their work. Of course, some don't have the equipment to do so, and if there are obstacles I am asking our IT to work with people on access and possibly loaner laptops.

    We continue to code, transcribe, and write. To keep community going I have maintained ALL my standing meetings, and we teleconference and keep positive and productive. We are front-loading tasks we can complete that were on back burners (like coding data we thought we'd never get to this semester). And, we take it day by day

    Catherine Tamis-Lemonda
    New York NY

  • 3.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-20-2020 13:36
    While we also placed preference on for-credit RAs, we additionally are trying to make sure that volunteers who are long-timers get their due. There are some limits on RAing for credit, so we don't want to comprise their investment and experience. We've just had to say no to new volunteers, though.

    Andrew Fuligni
    Los Angeles CA

  • 4.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-20-2020 15:49
    We are setting up a "syllabus" with R tutorials, deep evaluations of existing research, etc., in addition to coding from home, and other tasks. My goal is for the students to get a full experience, even if we don't get as much data collected.

    Lisa Oakes
    Davis CA

  • 5.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-24-2020 10:58
    R tutorials are a great idea. Are you using Datacamp? I've found that to be pretty good and a major time-saver on my end.

    Josh Hartshorne
    Boston College
    Chestnut Hill MA

  • 6.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-23-2020 15:06
    For promoting a positive lab experience, some labs are having lab hangouts via Zoom. Eating lunch together or whatever.

    Josh Hartshorne
    Boston College
    Chestnut Hill MA

  • 7.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-25-2020 12:43
    I am sending my students one remote activity per week to work on -- everyone gets the same activity, regardless of what they were working on before. Without a lab manager, this is about all I can handle and I don't want to overload my grad student. Since some of my students don't have computers and will just have tablets/phones for the rest of the semester, I think we are limited to coding that can be done using a Qualtrics survey.

    We are having an optional video lab meeting, mostly just to stay connected (I'm not planning much research content). I'm worried about them and would like to see their faces once in a while.

    Jasmine DeJesus
    UNC Greensboro

  • 8.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-28-2020 16:54
    Edited by Sabrina Thurman 03-28-2020 16:59
    I'm sharing these tips from another source:

    In these trying times, the Chemistry Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research realizes that many of you may be searching for how to support undergraduate research students. We want to encourage you to approach this moment with kindness and grace. For some faculty and students, adding anything else to their plate may be one thing too much. For some students and faculty, the opportunity to keep busy and have additional structure will feel very familiar and supportive. We offer the following ideas for those who might find them helpful. The Council on Undergraduate Research remains here to support you in your work with your students.

    Ideas for Undergraduate Research during the Coronavirus

    • Literature searching: use this time to make sure that your database is current. If you don't yet use an electronic program to manage your citations, there are several that are free.
    • Write up work completed or near completion: work with your students to write the manuscript for the projects that are nearing completion. If the work isn't quite done, writing now can really help clarify the experiments that need to be finished.
    • Role reversal: the PI conducts wrap-up experiments suggested by students in discussion with PIs as students contribute to initial manuscript drafts.
    • Develop ideas for a proposal: Work with your students to read papers that might help you develop new ideas. Have students do the literature research and write summaries of paper for you to cite or have them write paragraphs or parts of the proposal. While you may need to do significant refinement of their work, you may be surprised by their creativity.
    • Write standard operating procedures for each of your common lab procedures. This can be important for transmitting information from student to student and can also help with safety.
    • Develop a lab wiki or other web-based resource for lab training and other helpful documents.
    • Have students work together to write an "Intro to the Research Lab" document that welcomes new students and gets them up to speed on your work.
    • Write materials that can help recruit prospective students to the College and to the research lab. These could be summaries of their work, reflections about the importance of research, or why doing research at your institution has been great.
    • Have students reflect on their development as a scientist and how participating in research has helped with their growth and development. With their permission, these documents could be helpful to your Communications and Advancement offices.
    • Updating resumes with information about their undergraduate research projects and the skills they have developed.
    • Update and freshen web sites or other research materials used to recruit students for research participation.
    • Envision and/or develop an embedded undergraduate research course for future deployment in collaboration with your students. They may have excellent ideas about how to make this workable from a student perspective.

    Sabrina Thurman
    Assistant Professor
    Elon University

  • 9.  RE: Undergraduate RA Involvement While Off Campus

    Posted 03-29-2020 11:48
    Hi all.
    We use Trello for lab assignments and we've continued to do this--we just created a column for the stuff that is on hold while we are working remotely (see picture).
    Before we moved remote, I sent them all a survey asking about their tech, internet, and other capacity to work during this time.
    We continue to hold our lab meetings, but we do it virtually over zoom. This has also enabled the students to practice using zoom a few times before their classes start back up next week. During these meetings I take time to ask how they are doing, talk about any fun things they are doing or things they have found helpful to manage stress/anxiety, etc. Last week I heard a lot about TV shows, puzzles, and playing outside w/dogs :)
    My lab manager also created a zoom chat that the students can ask questions on and invite each other to have a video conference. I've encouraged them to just leave the chat open or even to leave the video conference open when they are "together" in lab--working the same hours...trying to approximate what it is like to be in the shared space.
    I am lucky to have a ton of assignments they *can* do remotely right now, so they are all keeping busy (if they have time/emotional capacity for it).

    Teomara Rutherford
    University of Delaware
    Newark DE