The largest loss of Iowa State students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines occurs during the first two years of college. Of the 30% of students who leave STEM within those first couple years, about half complete their degrees in non-STEM majors. For some, the switch is a matter of finding their adventure in another field. For others, the question comes down to retention.
This loss of students who were initially interested in STEM related fields is not unique to Iowa State. In fact, the national attrition rate is even higher. Both the Governor's office and the White House have been working to bolster interest and education in STEM to better position students and the economy for the future. Additionally, the National Academy of Sciences has identified retention of those in STEM as a major opportunity to solve current and future shortages of professionals in high-tech fields.
Freshman Research Initiative
at Iowa State seeks to retain students in STEM by engaging them in science at the onset of their college education. Participation in authentic research has not only proven to increase retention, but students feel more confident in their ability to contribute and are more prepared for advanced coursework. To reach a larger number of students, the Freshmen Research Initiative embeds authentic research into courses instead of the traditional one-on-one placement of students in faculty labs.
The initiative introduces freshman to authentic research in the fields of
biorenewable energy, chemistry, electrical and computer engineering, genetics, geology, human development and family studies, kinesiology, meteorology, molecular biology, and physics.
And course offerings are continuously expanding.
Streams of 15 to 20 students in introductory classes are co-opted into faculty members' research programs where students design their own experiments for course credit.
Students in the Freshmen Research Initiative...
- Participate in hands-on, cutting-edge research
- Experience the day-to-day life of a scientist
- Generate their own data
- Learn about various fields of research within their major
- Build relationships with peers and faculty interested in research
- Open the door to perform research throughout college
- Will be better prepared for careers in STEM
Through the Freshman Research Initiative, we can reduce the attrition rate and increase the number of Iowa State's students earning degrees in STEM. As Iowa's, and the nation's, economy evolves toward more high-tech and STEM related fields, Iowa State University is providing the next generation of top talent and research discoveries that will spur sustained economic
Did you know? At Iowa State University,
50% of undergraduate degrees and 62% of graduate/professional degrees are in STEM fields.
Micah Post, Yekaterina Vang, and Connor Lawless in the Stem Cells for Neuroregeneration course.