IRC Program Summary
Beginning in 2004, the Departments of Applied Biology & Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry implemented the IRCBC (Interdisciplinary Research Collaborative in Biology and Chemistry), intended to support undergraduate student research in the biological and chemical sciences. The IRCBC was originally funded by an external grant from Merck and the AAAS awarded to Richard Anthony and Mark Brandt and by Rose-Hulman. A Faculty Success Grant, funded by the Lilly Endowment, awarded to Peter Coppinger and Mark Brandt in 2006 allowed continuation of the program through 2009. A series of grants from the Edwards Lifesciences Fund supported the program in 2010 through 2014. In 2008, the program was renamed IRC (Interdisciplinary Research Collaborative) to reflect the wider range of disciplines involved in research projects supported by the program.
Research by undergraduate students greatly benefits both students and faculty. The students acquire an appreciation for the role of original research in creating the information found in their textbooks, an enhanced understanding of the theoretical information presented in their classes, and experience that provides a competitive edge in obtaining internships, post-graduation industry employment, and acceptance for post-graduate studies. The faculty mentors benefit both from their interaction with the students, and from exploring and remaining current within their fields of expertise. In addition, research allows faculty at all levels to fulfill the faculty professional development requirement necessary for tenure and promotion.
Students at Rose-Hulman have the opportunity to perform research during the academic year. However, the intensity of this research experience is tempered by the conflicting demands of class work and extracurricular activities. The IRC program allows selected students to expand on their research performed during the academic year during a full time ten week summer research program. The IRC research program differs from typical Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs in that it allows students to work on projects that they may have already started or may continue during their time at Rose-Hulman.
The second major aspect of the IRC program has been the annual undergraduate research symposium, held near the end of Fall Quarter. The symposium serves as a forum for the IRC students to present their work to fellow students. In addition, the symposium has attracted attendees and presenters from other local institutions.
Our experience during the four years of the IRC program strongly suggests that involvement in the sponsored full time research has allowed interested students to develop laboratory skills and understanding well beyond what is possible during the academic year. During the research program and as part of the symposium, the students gain experience in effective scientific communication, both written and oral. Taken together, these factors provide our top students with opportunities difficult, if not impossible, to obtain elsewhere, and assist both beginning and more senior faculty in initiating and maintaining active research endeavors. The IRC thus has roles in student education and in faculty recruitment and retention that make it an important asset to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Scope of the Program
The IRC supports full-time summer research by students at Rose-Hulman, both by paying stipends to the students, and, when possible, by providing funds for the purchase of supplies and other materials necessary for research. Over the past ten years, the IRC has supported the research of more than 100 different students majoring in 9 different disciplines working with about 20 different faculty members, culminating in more than 200 presentations at scientific conferences. The summer of 2016 marks the 13th consecutive year of providing Rose-Hulman students and faculty with the opportunity of working on research projects during the summer months.
The IRC organizes a symposium which allows undergraduate researchers in any science and engineering discipline to present the results of their work. Undergraduate students from a variety of institutions, both academic and industrial, have presented at the IRC Undergraduate Research Symposium; each year, between 25 and 35 students present the results from their research.
The IRC program at Rose-Hulman has offered me an opportunity to delve into a biochemistry research atmosphere and work both independently and in a team. This summer has been immensely valuable to me as a student and nascent researcher. - Rebecca Waltz (IRC Scholar)
The research being performed by IRC participants is exactly the type of experience we seek in applicants. - John Beals, Ph.D. (Research Fellow, Eli Lilly & Company)Support: Past, Present and Future
The IRC gratefully acknowledges the funding support that has made the program possible.
The IRC was initiated using joint funding provided by an external grant from Merck and the AAAS and by Rose-Hulman; the external grant provided funds from 2004 through 2006.
Major support for the IRC for the period of 2007 through 2009 was provided by the Lilly Endowment.
Major support for the IRC for 2010 through 2014 was provided by five separate grants from the Edwards Lifesciences Fund.
Additional supporting organizations include:
- Ecological Systems Laboratory of the Center for Sustainable Development
- Biophotonics Research Program
- NIH National Eye Institute grant
- Rose-Hulman Ventures
- Joseph B. and Reba A. Weaver Undergraduate Research Awards
- NSF via the REU grant to the Mathematics department
- Ampacet Corporation
- Rose-Hulman Student Affairs Office
- Matching support from the Department of Applied Biology & Biomedical Engineering
- Matching support from the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry