This page describes how the Freshman Research Initiative works as a model for effective science education. (If you are a student wondering how applying for FRI works, check out our Students section.)
At most research universities, scientific research and teaching happen independently of one another. In research, primary investigators may work with post-doctoral researchers, graduate research assistants and undergraduate research assistants in their labs. And separately, professors may work with graduate student teaching assistants and undergraduate students in teaching labs.
In FRI, however, the lab and classroom are seamlessly integrated.
Professors shape each unique Research Stream according to their own research needs and interests. This flexibility is integral to the FRI program and parallels the wide range of organizational styles seen in traditional research labs.
Professors delegate varying amounts of responsibility to Research Educators (REs), who in turn manage a team of researchers that includes graduate students and undergraduate students. This makes the FRI a hotbed for innovation in research and teaching.
Professors oversee the research goals on a broad scale and have partial responsibility for conducting classes.
Research Educators are in charge of the day-to-day operations of laboratory teaching and research. In many cases they have a high degree of autonomy regarding what research questions to address and share teaching responsibilities with the Professors.
The Research Educator arranges and maintains the lab to serve the 30+ students that will work there and develops a curriculum designed to ease students into independent work as quickly and effectively as possible. They coordinate a team including graduate students and undergraduate peer mentors. Research Educators spend much of their time working closely with undergraduates. This assistance is not only in lab, but also in helping them with presentations of data and future placement after the end of the FRI experience.
Finally, each RE is responsible for a part of the FRI program and given meaningful independence to pursue this work as they think will best serve the FRI program.