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Awards Help Research and Education Harmonize on Campus

June 1997

At the University of Delaware, art conservation students become sleuths investigating the authenticity of a 6th-century B.C. Greek sculpture. The purpose of the exercise is to determine if the marble objet d'art is a forgery, and to teach art history, archaeology, geology and chemistry.

"Instead of lecturing to my students, I plan to turn them into art detectives," says Delaware associate professor Chandra Reedy. "They will also talk about business ethics, and whether they should buy a sculpture that might be a fake."

The project is designed for humanities students who, Reedy says, may be "afraid of science." Class members analyze the stone in a laboratory, examine cultural issues and use scientific principles to reach conclusions and develop recommendations.

Reedy's students are participating in a campus-wide program that illustrates NSF's efforts to better integrate the education and research components of the university experience. "The vast majority of our faculty" -- including about 90 percent of all engineering, biological and physical science professors -- now actively participate in providing research opportunities for undergraduates," said University President David Roselle.

Because of these programs, the University of Delaware became one of the first 10 recipients of the Recognition Awards for the Integration of Research and Education (RAIRE) presented last February. Funded by NSF, the awards honor 10 research-intensive schools that are forging innovative and successful research-education partnerships. Winners were cited for setting a climate that has a tone and agenda for change and were awarded grants of $500,000 each for three years. More than 100 of 137 eligible research-based institutions applied for the awards.

NSF's RAIRE initiative has encouraged more discovery-based education classes, a greater focus on teaching quality when considering professors for promotion and tenure, and more collaborative efforts between both students and faculty. In an interview with the journal Science, NSF Director Neal Lane said, "I think this is probably the most important thing that we're doing."

The collaborations are also crossing disciplines, focusing, in the case of the University of Oregon, on history as well as computer science.

The University of Oregon created a high-speed network for students and faculty for the development and use of interactive courseware. So far, the network has spawned projects such as interactive maps in the history department. A professor of 19th-century U.S. history has developed an interactive time-lapse map that demonstrates the proliferation of slavery from 1790 until the beginning of the Civil War.

Other winners were Carnegie Mellon University, Kansas State University, State University of New York at Stony Brook, University of Arizona, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Michigan, and University of Missouri.

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