Earlier this year, IMSA opened a summer research cohort, PROMISE 2.0, which intends to provide a one-on-one or small-group research experience on campus (at IMSA) under the direction of a selected faculty member (at IMSA or beyond); the program is designed to be an extension of IMSA’s long-standing PROMISE program, its flagship outreach initiative targeted towards students of marginalized identities.While much is to be said about PROMISE 2.0’s implementation, little is known about how students perceive it. To clarify this, The Acronym sat down with two incoming PROMISE 2.0 candidates Andre Mendez (AM) and Angel Lopez (AL). AL will be working on campus, while AL will be working off-campus at Western Illinois University.
What are you looking forward to in the PROMISE 2.0 program, and how does it vary from your current academic endeavors?
Currently, in terms of research and actual SIR, I have not taken advantage of the opportunities that these programs offer, so I am anticipating that PROMISE 2.0 will give me the opportunity to learn more about research in general, through the context of the IMSA SIR program. This would give me a opportunity to continue what I’m going to this summer into the upcoming school year, and further my knowledge in the field I am researching.
I am looking forward to talking to more professors and exploring more of my topic in specificity, as my project is surrounding material science, and glass oxidation, and I’m really looking forward to the different perspectives and expertise that the faculty at WIU are going to able to offer. For me, having this opportunity helps me gain more knowledge in research fields and gives me context on what it takes to do research.
Expanding on the prior question, do you think that more opportunities should be offered next year, if this year is a success, especially since there is only one option offered this year for on-campus research?
Obviously, I think that this is a great opportunity for anyone that is interested in exploring more research opportunities, but right now, the only summer on-campus opportunity that is being offered from the PROMISE 2.0 program is the Drug Discovery program, which is kind of unfortunate since this sort of limits anyone that would want to more physics or CS-based research. For example, I wanted to do the string theory opportunity that was being offered, as it was something that I thought I would really enjoy, but as results came out, I realized that even if you voted for the physics option, the committee still placed you in the Drug Discovery option. I mean this is isn’t a bad thing, since it’s still a great opportunity in which people can explore what research is all about, and more specifically how to write a research paper, and later in the year present at IMSAloqium, but for me, what PROMISE 2.0 offered wasn’t exactly tailored to my interests, but I am really looking forward to taking this opportunity to build off the new skills that I will learn, and then next school year, possibly transition into another research project that is more suited towards what I want to pursue.
I think that currently the off-campus opportunities that are provided are formatted and planned really well, due to the variety, however, for the people that are on campus, there should be a lot more opportunities offered next year, since there is only the Drug Discovery one offered this year. But, the opportunities at WIU are looking really good since there are a lot of different opportunities.
So, can a student at WIU pick multiple research opportunities, and also do them concurrently?
Not necessarily, but you had to rate different opportunities on an incremental scale, as the research that I am doing right now wasn’t my first choice. My first choice was the quantum mechanics course that was being offered, but since that was already taken, I was allotted to take another course, in my case being the more material science based one. So basically, there are a few people that do each of the eight or so programs that are offered off campus, and this allows for a diversity of topics to be explored. But one thing that I found a little odd about the placement of students was that the off-campus opportunities had more chances for people to do many different things, but the on-campus ones only allowed for one. I know that Angel (AL) really wanted to do the string theory opportunity that was being proposed for on campus students, but since not everyone that was accepted into the program were comfortable with calculus, they decided it would be best for something that was accessible to many. But I do think that much more opportunities should be offered to people on campus, that align with their interests, and not just the interests of the whole.
So, to conclude with a final question regarding the inconsistencies with the PROMISE 2.0 program, what do you think can be improved next year in terms of outreach, selection options, and overall information about what the PROMISE 2.0 program will entail?
I feel like next year, the committee should inform the student population much more sooner, as the signup process for PROMISE 2.0 this year, was particularly well-received since it was only really introduced and explained in a really brief email that was sent out by Dr. Glazer earlier in the year. Furthermore, since it wasn’t really talked about beforehand anyways, people just ignored the email, and possibly missed an opportunity to learn about the program and possibly delve into the world research that it promises. So next year, I think that they should particularly emphasizes spreading the message more through email, social media, and just staff outreach is really going to be needed in order to get more interest and perspective on the program.
So, this year, they only had two or three really short emails that they sent out that just introduced the program as a a pilot program, and not really anything more than that. So next year, I think that they should really focus on fixing that by doing more community outreach. But on the note of program selection options, since this was a pilot program, they only gave us three options to pick from for the on-campus students, and as I said earlier, only one choice was picked for the students to actually commit to. So I think for next year, it would be more beneficial to have multiple options for on-campus students and allow students to explore more of these options, instead of getting forced into one of the three program that they potentially aren’t even interested in. Oh and also, for the program at WIU, I think that this program is also a great option, and I think everything that I said about the on-campus program and the courses they can offer still can apply to the off campus one at Western Illinois University.
Overall, students seem to think that the PROMISE 2.0 program is a new and interesting program that allows for more students that don’t have much exposure to research to gain insight on the field. However, due to the nature of the program being a pilot program, its reception doesn’t come without constructive criticism, as highlighted by the very useful commentary that AL and AM put forward. If these suggestions are addressed after the results of PROMISE 2.0 this year, the program is looking to be a viable option for many to explore what the SIR program at IMSA is known for.