The Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts

One of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s most distinguished academic requirements is the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP). Unique in higher education, the IQP is a research project that challenges students to address a problem that lies at the intersection of science, technology, and society. The IQP is an intentionally broad and integrative experience; student teams are drawn from all disciplines, and the project topic is typically not related to the students’ major field.

The objective of this interdisciplinary requirement is to enable WPI graduates to understand, as citizens and as professionals, how their careers will affect the larger society of which they are part. As a result, the research experience occurs in the field, not in a classroom. All projects include a two-month preparatory period at WPI prior to the two-month on site realization of the project. Many of the projects are proposed by external agencies or organizations, and most are undertaken by four-person student teams. For over 30 years, WPI students have been completing this research requirement on site at one of WPI’s 40 Project Centers in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, or Europe (WPI’s Global Programs). The project sponsors benefit from in-depth research and analysis, innovative problem solving, and a variety of support activities that include extensive written reports (example report), public presentations, and insightful outreach activities designed and implemented by the WPI student project teams.

At the Bar Harbor Project Center in Maine, WPI teams work closely with Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC). SERC is one of twenty research centers located at national parks across the United States, and is the largest of all these facilities. Located in Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Education and Research Center is dedicated to supporting scientific research and exploration. In collaboration with Acadia National Park and SERC, WPI student teams engage in long-term and ongoing research intended to guide present and future generations to greater understanding and respect for the environment.