In addition to their project work, all students receive substantial instruction and practice in technical communication skills and ethics: core competencies that are essential to all technical fields.
Because a primary purpose of the REU is to introduce students to the rigors of research, and because many of the projects are biomedical in content, the BER REU has chosen to focus its ethics efforts on the ethics of medical research with human subjects. Many of our REU students plan to become either biomedical researchers or physicians, while many of the remainder plan to enter industry, often in a biomedical field. Thus, a solid grounding in the issues of medical research is critical.
The BER ethics lessons are centered on two critical distinctions: that between research and practice, and between law and ethics. These two dimensions capture the majority of the ethical stakes of human subjects research, and moreover they are also generalizable to the ethics of any kind of research.
Students should come away with a firm conceptual grasp of both dichotomies, as well as basic information about what the rules around human subjects research are like. The intent is to provide students with the solid foundation they will need to engage in research ethically, as well as to provide a foundation, and hopefully the inspiration, for future ethics education.
The technical communication component is largely dedicated to helping student produce a written report on their research project, which may form the basis for a future published paper, and also to present a summary of their work orally. As such, the communications component is very tightly integrated into the research component of the REU.
The technical communications component is designed to help students to:
- Expand their knowledge of professional standards in technical and academic writing
- Understand the broad ranging, multifaceted nature of engineering communication (e.g., how it includes writing, speaking, graphs, etc.) and awareness of key concepts, such as the relationship of purpose to genre and audience.
- Improve in at least three specific communication skills areas that they identify as important to their own research projects in the REU; examples are interviewing experts, integrating texts and graphics, writing clear technical descriptions, etc.
- Develop their ability and comfort level in using new communication technologies, such as PowerPoint, teleconferencing, and videoconferencing
- Improve their ability to communicate effectively in groups, especially in giving and receiving feedback