If a goal of your unit is the early integration of research, here are some ways in which other units on campus have done it.
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering: We have structured our curriculum requirements to provide a focus on research. This includes a course requirements that provide a firm foundation in chemical engineering fundamentals and also allow students to take courses from a broad set of disciplines ranging from biology to business to engineering. In addition, our qualifying exams have been structured such that we evaluate students on their core competency very early in the program—between the first and second semesters—and then stimulate a quick start to design of their dissertation projects in the second semester.
Recreation, Sport & Tourism: Strong research culture is one of the hallmarks of the doctoral program. Whether as part of a class project, dissertation, or collaboration with faculty on their grants, doctoral students participate in an impressive number of scientific investigations throughout their programs.
Social Work: First, our students are very actively involved in different types of research training and opportunities. As a result, they have strong publication records. One example is the Individual Research course. The two-semester sequence is designed to provide students with a supervised and "hands-on" research experience with a faculty member. The student's project may involve student- or faculty-initiated research, and the product of this course for many of our doctoral students is a published manuscript (student are usually the first author).
Agricultural and Consumer Economics: A practice that we have found valuable is early integration of research into the program through the second year research paper requirement, the research methods and communication class, and generally close adviser-advisee relations on research activities.
Astronomy: Our first summer research fellowship program is a great success story for our department. It gets doctoral students into research early in their studies. This program results in a permanent student-thesis advisor pairing about half the time. It has also resulted in numerous papers published in refereed scientific journals and presentations at conferences.
Economics: In recent years the department has implemented a competitive summer research fellowship program for graduate students. The funding is equivalent to two months’ assistantship, thus freeing the recipients to conduct research during the summer. This program provides the incentive to students to submit formal research proposals as well as helps them focus their research to meet the department’s application and research completion deadlines. A further benefit to the department is that it informs us of their research agendas and often leads to other awards and recognition for the recipient.
Mathematics: The REGS (Research Experience for Graduate Students) began as an internally funded program to help students in the critical transition from student to independent researcher. These summer opportunities allow students to explore new research areas and to work with possible advisors. The original idea was that unlike the other sciences where students can begin working in laboratory settings as part of their RA duties, beginning doctoral students in mathematics are typically employed as teaching assistants instead and sometimes lack that critical transitional experience from coursework to research. The success of our summer REGS program was rewarded with the $5 million MCTP grant through the NSF and several peer institutions have since adopted similar programs.