About First-year Research Immersion (FRI)
First-year Research Immersion (FRI) is a groundbreaking, new program that gives first-year STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) students the opportunity to combine their academic studies with the experience of conducting real research, investigating important problems that yield publishable results in the areas of biomedical sciences, sustainable energy, environmental science, computer science and engineering.
This three-semester program begins with a Research Methods seminar in the fall of first year, followed by a Research Stream for course credit in the spring, which continues for a second semester in the fall of sophomore year. In this way, students are prepared for the Research Stream experience, and then have two semesters in a Research Stream, which gives them enough time to learn research techniques, acquire background on a research question and follow through on the initial phases of a real research problem.
Why a three-semester program?
It is analogous to needing several courses to acquire proficiency in a foreign language. Students need the FRI sequence to obtain a deeper understanding of the process of science and how to apply that successfully. Accordingly, the three-course FRI sequence replicates the best of junior-senior "independent study" research experiences -- for substantial numbers of our first-year students -- via step-wise progression over three courses and highly structured mentoring.
Faculty in teams of three to five design and oversee the research experience for each Research Stream. New laboratories have been designed, constructed and outfitted to provide the innovative infrastructure to fully integrate undergraduate students in leading-edge research in the Research Stream they are placed into.
Students are well positioned to continue research in faculty laboratories and obtain summer internships after FRI, all of which prepare them for future careers in sciences and engineering.
Binghamton's FRI program is unique in several ways
Binghamton has the only FRI program that has teams of faculty researchers designing and overseeing the research streams. Consequently, students get to know several faculty early in their college experience. Binghamton has the only FRI program that admits students at the outset into a research stream, which means that the students and faculty start working together in the first-year fall semester, and thus the students have three semesters of a developing mentor-mentee relationship and peer-support community. Nationally, STEM education research shows the importance of those two elements in helping students clarify career goals, instill confidence that they can succeed in science and engineering, and facilitate an understanding of how to plan for the rest of their college experience and beyond. Binghamton's FRI emphasizes collaborative and teamwork skills, the very skills that employers say they want in college graduates.