Integrating Authentic Research as Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in an Undergraduate Bioenergy Course


  • Michael Timko Worcester Polytechnic Institute 100 Institute Road Worcester, MA 01609



 Integrating teaching and research can benefit both instructors and students by providing an enriching, stimulating experience that combines the instructors’ interests with topics that are relevant and motivating to students. In keeping with National Science Foundation review criteria, the integrated course captures both intellectual merit, that is the technological and scientific innovation of the research, and broader impacts, that is the potential benefits to society. This article describes a bioenergy course that included several well-known learning activities, including lab tours, lab activities, guest lectures, and group discussions, to integrate intellectual merit and broader impacts into undergraduate education. Each of these techniques fills a specific role in delivering content that helps break down barriers between research and education. Overall student response has been positive, with course evaluations providing qualitative evidence of greater student motivation and deeper learning.

Author Biography

Michael Timko, Worcester Polytechnic Institute 100 Institute Road Worcester, MA 01609

Michael Timko is an associate professor of chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). His teaching blends traditional lectures with active learning, emphasizing research and entrepreneurial mindset learning. To date, he has taught classes on thermodynamics, unit operations lab, and bioenergy. Prof. Timko’s research is focused on green chemistry and engineering to convert renewable and waste feeds into useful fuels, chemicals, and materials. He is the recipient of the 2015 National Science Foundation CAREER award, the 2013 National Science Foundation BRIGE award, and the 2013 American Chemical Society Glenn Research Award, as recognized by the Division of Energy & Fuels. Outside of work, Prof. Timko enjoys spending time with his family, cycling, and hiking.