Based on positive student outcomes, providing research experiences from early undergraduate years is recommended for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors. To this end, we designed a novel research experience called the “STEMCats Research Experience” (SRE) for a cohort of 119 second-semester freshmen with diverse college preparatory levels, demographics, and academic majors. The SRE targeted student outcomes of enhancing retention in STEM majors, STEM competency development, and STEM academic performance. It was designed as a hybrid of features from apprenticeship-based traditional undergraduate research experience and course-based undergraduate research experience designs, considering five factors: 1) an authentic research experience, 2) a supportive environment, 3) current and future needs for scale, 4) student characteristics and circumstances, and 5) availability and sustainability of institutional resources. Emerging concepts for facilitating and assessing student success and STEM curriculum effectiveness were integrated into the SRE design and outcomes evaluation. Here, we report the efficient and broadly applicable SRE design and, based on the analysis of institutional data and student perceptions, promising student outcomes from its first iteration. Potential improvements for the SRE design and future research directions are discussed.

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Published in CBE—Life Sciences Education, v. 17, no. 4, ar53, p. 1-18.

© 2018 T. Rodrigo-Peiris et al. CBE—Life Sciences Education © 2018 The American Society for Cell Biology.

This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). It is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0).

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This work was supported by an HHMI Sustaining Excellence-2014 grant (#52008116) awarded to the UK (V.M.C., principal investigator).

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