STEMSEAS: Providing Formative At-Sea Research Exposure to Undergraduates

Baylee Sergent, University of Boulder Colorado, Geology, Boulder, CO, United States and Isabel Kain, Northeastern University, Physics, Boston, MA, United States
The Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS) Project capitalizes on unused capacity during non-operational transits of ships in the U.S. academic fleet to provide undergraduate students with formative exposure to ocean science research. We assess STEMSEAS’ twofold impact, both on the students themselves and on the larger STEM ecosystem to which the students are being connected. Post-transit surveys were provided to allow for self-assessment of program impact, one administered to students immediately after return to shore, another given several months later. These surveys assessed (1) confidence in self, including self-assessment of abilities, likelihood of success in STEM activities, and likelihood to pursue STEM engagement such as coursework, internships, research, further education, or a career; and (2) confidence in discipline, whether they felt geoscience is welcoming and accessible to them. Interviews were also conducted with research scientists who worked with STEMSEAS students, either during the program or after its conclusion. These interviews determined their satisfaction with (1) availability of interested and engaged students to recruit for research, (2) those students’ capabilities and success in research, and (3) the impact of added-value science on their work. The results of these interviews, supplemented by data of STEMSEAS alumni engagement in research, are presented and discussed. We find evidence for positive impact on both students and on the larger STEM community. For students, we find evidence of bolstered self-confidence in abilities and success in STEM, as well as high self-ratings of likelihood of STEM retention. For researchers, we determined that both STEMSEAS’ function as a clearinghouse for engaged undergraduate researchers, as well as the program’s commitment to conducting added-value science, are highly valued by participating scientists.