Published: Aug. 31, 2023 By

Robert Wang (IDE'25) participated in the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship (DLA) program at CU Boulder in the summer of 2023. He did research on the benefits of interdisciplinary engineering education programs similar to the Integrated Design Engineering program at CU Boulder, where he has an emphasis in mechanical engineering and a concentration in Chinese.

His research as an undergraduate was accepted by the American Society for Engineering Education, and he was able to travel to Baltimore and present at the conference through the support of the Professional & Academic Conference Endowment (PACE) grant and the College of Engineering and Applied Science's Dean’s Matching Travel Grant. 

He also ran into an Integrated Design Engineering Alumni, Micaela Bara (IDE'22) who was also presenting at the 2023 ASEE conference on redesigning a multi-disciplinary measurement lab and statistics course. 

Q+A with Robert Wang

What inspired you to do the research you did on interdisciplinary engineering programs?

In the hopes that I find something that I want to pursue in the future, I want to have various different experiences while I’m here at CU Boulder. I found this DLA opportunity on IDE programs to be a valuable experience that would indicate whether or not research is something that I want to do in my career. Also, I myself am an Integrated Design Engineering student, so I was personally interested in this research and its ability to help the program.

How would you describe the research that you did? 

Much of the research that I did involved set up, data collection, and data analysis. To prepare for the research, I first had to go through training for human research and submit an IRB approval with Professor Zarske. 

The purpose of this was to verify that the research that we were doing was ethical. It took a decent amount of time to create the survey and focus groups. Most of my time was spent on data collection/organization and data analysis. Since our study focused on surveying and interviewing the students, our studies were more qualitative. 

I think that a person’s research experience is largely dependent on what kind of research they are doing. Various different skills can be improved through research, like creativity, data analysis and problem-solving. 

How would you describe the experience of doing research through DLA?

DLA was an invaluable experience that taught me various different skills and helped me create important connections. I was able to learn about the process of research, and through this I improved my data analysis, technical writing, public speaking, and more. I had the opportunity to work with Professor Zarske and make a meaningful relationship with her, which I am thankful for. I believe that this DLA experience will play an integral role in my future.

What was it like working with a faculty mentor?

I absolutely loved working with Professor Zarske! She was a fantastic mentor, and I learned a lot of valuable skills from her. I appreciate her understanding and patience, and the support that she provided me throughout the DLA experience helped me both within and outside of research. I’m grateful that I was able to work with and learn from Professor Zarske, and I’m glad that I was able to build a great relationship with her. I think that being able to work with a mentor and building that connection is an invaluable experience that everyone should participate in. There’s a lot that I learned that I wouldn’t have been able to in class.

What was it like getting your work accepted by ASEE and presenting your research at a conference?

I was both overjoyed and relieved when our conference paper was accepted by ASEE. Professor Zarske and I put in a lot of time and effort this past year to set up, conduct, and analyze our research. After submitting our final draft, I was worried about whether or not our peer reviewers would accept our paper. Receiving our notification of acceptance was a huge sigh of relief, and having our research validated by other academic peers left me with a sense of accomplishment. I’m grateful that our work was appreciated by the other members of ASEE.

What would you say to other students who have an interest in possibly pursuing research?

Just go for it! You'll never know if research is something you are passionate about if you don’t try it out. The DLA program is a great way to step into research and see if it’s something that interests you.