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A Letter to a Young Scientist: Prompting Students To Reflect On And Recognize Their Own Growth As Scientists

Author(s): Stephanie Conant1, Tom D'Elia2, Arturo Diaz3, Denise L Monti4, Richard Pollenz5, Vassie Ware6, Kathy Takayama7, Viknesh Sivanathan7

1. University of Detroit Mercy 2. Indian River State College 3. La Sierra University 4. University of Alabama at Birmingham 5. University of South Florida 6. Lehigh University 7. Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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This activity is designed to prompt students to reflect on and recognize their own growth as scientists and, consequently, may help develop student self-efficacy and science identity.


Undergraduate students, even those with little or no prior research experience, will develop a suite of technical and critical thinking skills by the end of an authentic research experience. These gains, however, may not be apparent to them. Indeed, the introduction of new experimental techniques throughout their research experience has the potential to make a student feel like a constant novice, and as a result, not recognize their accomplishments and growth in critical thinking. This reflection activity, called “Letters to a Young Scientist”, is an opportunity to prompt students to reflect on and recognize their own growth. By providing students with the opportunity to reflect on their own accomplishments, this activity may help develop student self-efficacy and science identity.

After completing this module, students should be able to recognize the suite of experimental and thinking skills they have gained from conducting research.

Intended Teaching Setting

Course level:  for all students, particularly for those with little to no prior research experience
Instructional Setting:  in-person classroom/laboratory
Implementation Time Frame:  ~ 20 minutes

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:


  1. Sarah Swerdlow @ on   (Edited: @ on )

    Thank you for this activity.  I did this with my students in the Bioinformatics portion and it was great. The students shared how they felt on the first day of lab and how confused they were, and went on to discuss how much better it got and how proud they were once they finished the genome. 

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