Project CUREOS: 

Characterizing Undergraduate Research Experiences and Outcomes in STEM 

Undergraduate Research Experience (URE): highly impactful, but difficult to scale.

Our central question is:

How does undergraduate research create positive student outcomes?

There is a significant amount of research demonstrating the importance of mentoring relationships in undergraduate research (check out the Resources page for recent papers). We are approaching this question from the work-design lens. 

Our research questions are:

1. How is the work of undergraduate researchers structured?

2. What unique structures are present at the primarily undergraduate institutions?

3. What is the relationship between various aspects of work design structure and key undergraduate research outcomes?

Theoretical framework

Job Characteristics Theory (Hackman and Oldham, 1976, 1980) states that the structure of work affects the psychological states of the workers, which leads to predictable outcomes.

The structure of work can be described by the core job characteristics.


How is your undergraduate research structured?

Check out some of the work structures we are thinking about and consider participating in our study to help you think about your research experience from the work-design perspective!

Career Exploration Database

We wonder if understanding the structural characteristics of prior experience in undergraduate research, internship or a job may help students navigate choices of careers. We are developing a Career Exploration Database that will use the work-design survey (currently in the pilot testing) AND individual preferences and values to help find matching occupations in the O*Net database from the department of labor. 

We hope to be ready for pilot-testing the database soon (Spring 2023?) - please, check back for more info!

Assessment of Undergraduate Research Programs

If you are a faculty member or an administrator interested in assessment of undergraduate research program at your institution, please reach out to us. We'd love to partner with you and provide program-level assessment while collecting data for our study. (email

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2142404. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

This research was generously supported by the William and Linda Frost Fund in the Cal Poly College of Science and Mathematics.