Mitch Aiken, the associate director for educational outreach at the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO), oversaw the expansion of the Summer Research Connection (SRC) outreach program through the launch of the new partially-remote Hybrid Summer Research Connection (HSRC). Supported by a gift to CTLO from the Masimo Foundation, of which Caltech trustee Joe Kiani is chair, HSRC allows more Southern California high school students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, to connect with Caltech. Here, Aiken explains how programs like HSRC help faculty members expand the impact of their research in the community.
"For National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, there are two components. The grant proposals are evaluated based on intellectual merit and broader impacts. Intellectual merit focuses on the actual research: Is it a good research plan? Is it something that will advance fundamental or applied knowledge? What are the research outcomes? How will NSF support make that happen?
"But then, also, NSF weighs the broader impacts, which are the more indirect benefits. How are you reaching a larger audience? How are you improving society as a whole? And, how are you broadening participation in the sciences? How are you giving opportunities to new people who are coming into science and whose identities have been marginalized in STEM fields? NSF has put a big emphasis on that in recent years. This is something that's important, and it can't be the afterthought at the end of a proposal.
"Our office works with faculty when they're developing that broader-impacts piece. We talk about questions like: What audiences will we be working with, which schools and classrooms? What are the demographics? What are the goals? How will the program roll out, and how will we assess the impacts? SRC is a big component of a lot of the grants because it really reaches a wide array of students, giving them an authentic on-campus and/or remote research experience, supporting them, and showing how they could be part of a research community.
"There's also a special category of NSF grants called the Faculty Early Career Development Program [commonly known as CAREER grants]. In those grant proposals, in addition to completing the broader-impacts section, faculty also create an integrated education and research plan to talk about how they plan to connect the teaching they're doing at Caltech with the broader impacts of their work to serve the whole student, whether grad students or undergrads.
"For the CAREER grant, you're really reflecting on, ‘What are the things I can do so that my students, when they leave Caltech, have had a meaningful education experience?' We help out with quite a few of those proposals."
Discover more about CTLO's outreach programs here.