Friday, July 29, 2011

Reflections on Research

      Having been involved in research efforts at a variety of location before ( Washington University, University of Rochester, Natick Labs...), the part of the process which has been reaffirmed this summer at the photonics lab is the need for a team approach in undergoing the research. Not only is there the guidance of the Principal Investigator but also the needed input of those who are working in the lab. People need to be able to share ideas on how to approach problems. Furthermore, within the constraints of funding and stipulated grant proposals, researchers need to have the freedom to investigate new avenues which evolve in the research process.
     It is also important that researchers be able to follow leads sufficiently so that they can ascertain how it will direct future research. It is important to recognize that even negative results provide the researcher with information concerning how the process under study operates. It also provides the researcher with new avenues to be delved into.
     As a teacher trying to become part of the process, instead of just an observer, it would be helpful to designate more of the 6 week time period to working in the lab. This would provide the teacher with the time to get the background information needed, the lab experience needed and the time to figure out how their work fits into the overall research of the lab. This would permit the teacher to feel able to contribute to the research beyond the technician's role. However, in order to do this, either the time period of the project must be expanded to more than 6 weeks or the hands-on time in the lab must be expanded to closer to 5 full days per week rather than 3.5. This would help the teacher to really experience the research experience better.
     One potential outcome of this experience for my classwork deals with providing students with the opportunities to do multiple stage research. As we delve into our laboratory experiences, rather than each lab only occurring on one double lab day, students need to do follow up labs. For instance, they will do a typical first lab on some topic. Then, as part of the lab report, they will do a limitations analysis of the lab. Following this, they will be asked to redesign the lab so that they can reduce the number of limitations in the lab. Then, they will perform their revised lab and analyze their results.
      Later, this process will be expanded upon as they do their own semester long projects.
      It will be important for them to work on both the labs and projects in small groups so that they gain experience in sharing ideas during the research process.

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