The Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) Program
In FRI, the laboratory and the classroom are seamlessly integrated. Faculty-led research groups engage ~35 undergraduate students in a Research Stream—a two-course sequence plus optional summer participation—with the assistance of a Ph.D. faculty member called a “Research Educator" (RE), undergraduate peer mentors (upper-level students who have participated in the FRI course experience), and sometimes other members (graduate students, post-docs, etc.) of their laboratory. FRI researchers earn course credit that counts toward their degree by contributing towards novel research goals.
FIRST YEAR AT UT
FALL. FRI-admitted students are enrolled in a first semester seminar to bridge a transition to college, provide an introduction to general research methods and lay out the pathway forward as a researcher in FRI. Students participate in FRI events to meet current students and faculty to help them choose their selections for research stream placement.
SPRING. FRI students join their research stream and earn lower-division course credit that serves as a replacement for fundamental introductory lab courses. Students are provided with authentic research experiences, including in-depth participation in various scientific practices and opportunities that lead to invaluable 21st century skills (e.g. critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, information literacy, leadership, etc.).
SUMMER. Students can work with their research streams through our fellowship program or as a volunteer researcher. During this time, students expand their projects and are granted a higher degree of independence and responsibility.
SECOND YEAR AT UT
FALL. Students continue with their research stream and receive upper-division research credit paired with a core curriculum Writing flag. To create experiential learning curriculum emphasizing scientific thinking and scholarship, REs curate an evolving, diversified research agenda, so that students see that their work is relevant beyond the scope of the course.
CONTINUING WITH FRI & BEYOND
Many students extend their STEM experiences in FRI as peer mentors and researchers, often for the remainder of their time as undergraduates. This establishes nurturing, multi-tiered teaching and learning communities in FRI where students of all stages can continue to develop academically and professionally from longitudinal, holistic mentoring. The FRI course experience is a pivotal gateway to numerous, multi-semester academic and professional opportunities for CNS students, especially effective for increasing the participation of under-represented minority students in STEM.