Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Benjamin Kirshner

Second Advisor

Sandra Laursen

Third Advisor

Michele Moses

Fourth Advisor

William Penuel

Fifth Advisor

Joseph Polman


The U.S. government, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), makes significant investments in the upcoming generation of scientists and researchers through undergraduate research programs (UR) and internships. These programs are thought to motivate students to finish STEM degrees and provide authentic training under the mentorship of scientists. How are students recruited and chosen for these programs? This dissertation consists of three studies focusing on undergraduate student recruitment and selection into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate research (UR) programs and internships. The first study is philosophical and proposes that gender should be considered a marker of merit in student selection competitions. The essay employs a Marxist feminists position to suggest that women, because of their historical exclusion from science and their oppressed social location, have special contributions to make to the scientific enterprise. The main feminist contribution is social epistemological. Women, under certain circumstances, can detect male biases in men’s conclusion, choice of theory and experimental design. The second study looks at NSF’s UR program, called the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). It sheds light on historical patterns of student recruitment and recruitment practices for eleven years of REU funding, 1987 to 2017. In line with federal priorities, individual REU sites have proposed recruiting undergraduate students who are members of underrepresented groups, and, additionally, students from groups that are not mentioned in the REU recommendations for recruitment (e.g., first-generation college students, low-income students). This study makes a contribution by documenting a taxonomy of student recruitment practices, something that will be useful to funders and practitioners. The third study uses a discourse analysis approach to examine how two students were chosen for a summer internship in one department at a government laboratory in the Western United States. Findings show that the two students were selected for two reasons: one for how the internship could assist her career and the other for her potential contribution to the laboratory’s workload. Although diversity was part of the internship’s mission, it was not explicitly invoked during the selection deliberation. These studies contribute to scholarly understanding of undergraduate student recruitment and selection.