What is IMMERSE?
The IMMERSE program was initiated in 2003 by Professors Aaron Hawkins and Stephen Schultz of BYU's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Undergraduate research was being emphasized at the university's administration level and BYU's Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA) was offering grant money to support faculty-directed student activities. Hawkins and Schultz's proposal for an undergraduate research effort focused on microelectronics and microfabrication was accepted by ORCA, and the first handful of students were hired in the summer of 2003.
Originally called the Microfabrication Mentoring Environment (MME), the program began with the goal of having every undergraduate student publish some type of scientific paper. Students were given a number of high risk research projects that eventually led to larger, externally funded programs. Additionally, students were asked to help establish standard processes in our revamped cleanroom facility and document them via the internet.
From 2003 to 2014, 152 students have been employed by this program and its success has been far-reaching. The vast majority of participating students have published a scientific paper while part of the program and gone on to graduate school. Funding for student salaries has come from a combination of ORCA mentoring funds, the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, external research project sponsors like the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, and corporate donors.
In 2007, the program's name was officially changed to IMMERSE to more accurately reflect its goals and structure and the Micron Foundation became a major sponsor. With added funding, IMMERSE was expanded to include fifteen to twenty undergraduate students per year. Additional faculty from BYU's college of engineering were also made eligible to participate in the program as mentors.
The focus of the IMMERSE program is to allow undergraduate students to conduct and publish significant research. Faculty mentors help participating students write and publish technical papers summarizing their research projects and results. The "Undergraduate Research Model" of the IMMERSE program has been successful in helping participating students to publish their work in technical, peer-reviewed journals and articles.
The program operates with the goal that every student author or co-author a technical journal or conference paper.
The IMMERSE program is known for its one-on-one mentoring. Participating students have daily opportunities for close interaction with mentoring professors, where they are taught the essentials of good research and scientific method. IMMERSE mentors give useful presentations on various topics, such as writing a technical paper, presenting your research, and applying to graduate schools. Faculty mentors also help guide individual research projects by helping participating students to set weekly research goals. Students are given opportunities to practice giving various types of technical presentations.
Members of IMMERSE participate in weekly IMMERSE meetings, at which faculty members give instruction on speaking, writing, the research process, grad school admissions, and more. Students also give technical presentations at these meetings.
Regular meetings with individual research groups are also held to review and set research goals and coordinate technical training with other students.