Since its inaugural class of just 43 students in 2015, the Freshman Research Initiative has meant a lot to the more than 6,200 Longhorns who have completed the program.
FRI alumni have been a source of pride for the College of Natural Sciences, with many taking what they learned in the labs into life after UT Austin: graduate school, professional school, starting businesses and more.


A Letter to FRI Alumni from the Director

I'm excited to share with you our newly published study that looks at the powerful impact of the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI)  at the University of Texas at Austin. The research finds courses that engage college students in conducting scientific research early can dramatically increase students’ likelihood of completing a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degree. This new study found that FRI boosts both STEM retention and graduation odds for students across all socioeconomic and racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The findings have media and experts across the country hailing the FRI:
  • The Austin American-Statesman  ran an in-depth, front-page feature story focused exclusively on FRI and UT’s pivotal role in increasing STEM graduation rates.
  • James Gates, member of The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, told the Statesman, “UT has accomplished something remarkable. The university has created an approach to solving one of our nation’s most difficult problems.”
  • Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington, D.C., said in Science  that FRI “is a very powerful example of what can be done at our large public universities, which train a high proportion of our undergraduates.”
  • Marcia Linn, a University of California, Berkeley expert on STEM education assessment noted, “What's really great is that a course-based program has been designed to be so effective, to emulate the best features of an apprenticeship program with a lot more control and support.”
  • Nobel laureate Carl Wieman, a Stanford University physics and education professor, who champions improvements in undergraduate science education, said, “Every university ought to be looking closely at these results as they think about how to improve the quality of STEM education provided to their students.”
W'ere humbled by — and agree 100% with — all this praise of the Freshman Research Initiative! We also know that meeting the nation’s need for a STEM-educated workforce requires engaging students with science in a meaningful way. Did you know that increasing retention in STEM disciplines by just 10 percentage points would get the United States most of the way toward its target for more STEM-educated Americans in the workforce? The FRI is meeting a real need at UT and the other campuses it has inspired.
Your support is critical as we look to the future. The college received a $5,000 challenge grant from an alum whose time spent in the lab as a student led to her career as a researcher. She hopes to encourage further giving from those impacted by the power of FRI. Double your impact by donating now. Your generosity will help sustain, strengthen and expand this groundbreaking program and help pave the way for future scientists, technology innovators and world-class researchers. Please consider making a gift to FRI  today.
Stacia Rodenbusch
Freshman Research Initiative