Sharing ERC Expertise with a Liberal Arts College

Achievement date: 

Professors and students at a liberal arts college tackled a sophisticated research project with the help of engineering expertise at the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG), headquartered at Arizona State University.


Two professors and two undergraduate students at Lafayette College integrated their research at an emerging frontier of science with that of investigators and graduate students at the CBBG. Funded by an NSF grant, the innovative approach was the first to link a liberal arts college with an ERC in a collaboration model that could be extended to other ERCs.


Undergraduate research experiences are known to benefit undergraduate students. Lafayette professors became aware of CBBG’s work related to their research area, and wrote a proposal to NSF that would include collaboration with the Center. Besides benefits to the undergraduate students and CBBG investigators, such research experiences also benefit faculty at small colleges by keeping them engaged in their areas of expertise.

Besides laboratory work during the academic year, the grant provided for two undergraduate students to participate in the Center’s summer training for undergraduate researchers, and for them to spend eight weeks working with researchers at a CBBG institution. The students also were able to participate in the CBBG annual meeting. The students received a realistic and fully immersed experience of graduate school. Similarly, the Lafayette investigators participated in extended meetings at the CBBG institution during the summer and mid-year meetings at CBBG.