It is clear that practicing by doing and learning by teaching others are the two ways of learning that yield the highest retention rate for students. I believe strongly in this premise and help students develop and execute their own research projects. Independence challenges them to develop a strategy to answer a previously unsolved problem using their own creative process. At both undergraduate and graduate levels, independent research projects are the clearest established method for maximizing retention of knowledge and enabling the future application of that knowledge. These projects can be integrated into my own research interests, but I encourage and actively support the independence of studentās topics. This leads more naturally to student first-authorship on the conference presentations and research papers that emerge from the projects.
There are two programs already established at Dartmouth that I draw on to help expose undergraduate students to research projects. Especially strong third-year students are encouraged to begin developing their Senior Honors project through the Presidential Scholars Program, and I have at least one student who will begin working with me next year. Secondly, I have included Earth surface research opportunities within my group in the Women In Science Project (WISP), which is a highly successful project that encourages first-year women to pursue their interests in science. I expect to always have several first-year women integrated into my research group.
Graduate research projects need little description. With three Ph.D. students and two Master's students, I have quickly built a research group with interests parallel to and building upon my own and hope to grow with at least one post-doctoral fellow. One Ph.D. student is helping push forward our use of short-lived isotopes in soil erosion studies, working on my NH and CA field sites; the other is tackling chemical weathering in new ways, working with me in the field in CA and Australia; the third did field work with me in Nepal and is taking his own path to quantify mountain erosion. This synergistic group enables group seminars, where we take turns presenting research problems, social gatherings where we share in delights beyond our educational pursuits, and field trips to keep the theory based in reality.