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What is the RET Program?
The Research Experience for Teachers (RET) is an intensive professional development program where we place middle and high school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers in Material Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) laboratories for seven weeks. During this program, you will get hands-on experience doing cutting-edge research and use the tools, language, and practices of science while designing hands-on learning activities for your classroom. As a fellow, you will work under the direction of a principal investigator (PI) along with postdoctoral and graduate student mentors from the PI’s lab.
The program includes a $6,000 stipend and a $500 supplies budget to develop the classroom activity.
As an RET fellow, you will work at the UW-Madison campus in a MRSEC laboratory daily for seven weeks. Not only will you learn about the lab, their research goals, and their methods, you will also collaborate with other fellows both from Wisconsin and from Puerto Rico. You and your research partners will collaboratively design and develop an engaging activity for your classroom that is inspired by the research in the lab. You will take part in research meetings, seminars from renowned researchers, and outreach events that will enable you to test your activities before bringing them into the classroom. After the program, you will implement the activities you designed in your own class. Our MRSEC staff will continue to work with you in your classrooms to document and evaluate your project’s effectiveness. Activities that do well in the classroom will be made available to other teachers through MRSEC websites and initiatives.
The RET program culminates in a capstone week experience with our partners from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. During capstone week, RET fellows from Puerto Rico and Wisconsin meet to share their projects and activities, learn about each other’s cultures, and tour educational sites. All capstone week expenses will be covered by the Wisconsin MRSEC.
The 2020 RET Program will run from June 15, 2020 until July 31, 2020.
RET Program Goals
The Wisconsin MRSEC RET program has two main goals:
1. We will provide science teachers with an authentic research experience
2. We will team up with teachers to create new science learning activities for youth inspired by MRSEC research
The MRSEC is an interdisciplinary group of researchers from diverse fields of science and engineering seeking to address critical gaps in our understanding of disordered materials and the emergence of order from disordered materials. In the Interdisciplinary Education Group, we use examples of nanotechnology and advanced materials to enhance public understanding of fundamental science and engineering concepts and to share the excitement and potential of these interdisciplinary fields with K-12 audiences and the general public.
How to Apply
To apply for the Summer 2020 RET program, please fill out the below application survey by the end of the day, Sunday, March 15, 2020.
In the application you will be asked to provide a CV or resume and your reasons for wanting to join the program. Please contact the coordinator, Matthew Stilwell, with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does the schedule look like for the RET Program?
A: The RET program is a full time (~40 hours/week) professional development program. RET fellows are expected to work in their labs Monday though Friday. The specific hours depend on the mentor’s schedule and the laboratory’s culture (e.g. some groups keep a 9 am – 5 pm schedule while others may start later in the day). Scientific research can be unpredictable, so occasionally experiments may need to be done over a weekend or may finish early. We encourage communication between mentors and RET fellows to ensure all participants understand their expectations.
Q: Does the program cover housing and travel costs?
A: No, the program does not specifically cover housing and travel. The RET program does provides a stipend to each fellow that can be used as the fellow chooses, potentially for housing and travel costs. If the program’s capstone week is held away from Madison, we will cover travel and lodging at the capstone week location.
Q: What does an ideal RET candidate look like?
A: An ideal RET candidate is a middle or high school science, engineering, technology, or mathematics (STEM) teacher who has experience developing engaging, hands-on educational activities and who has a passion for STEM education.
Q: Are there any specific educational backgrounds that would be helpful for success in the RET program?
A: Having an educational background in science, engineering, technology, or mathematics (STEM) will improve your chances of quickly getting up to speed in your research laboratory and understanding that research. An understanding of chemistry and/or physics is particularly useful. With that said, we have had RET fellows who did not have a STEM background excel in the program. A passion for STEM and a willingness to learn can be your greatest assets!
Past RET Activities