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NSF Grant to Support Summer Science Research Program

RELEASED: May 5, 2009

Dr. Jim Phillips Dr. Alan Gengenbach
Dr. Jim Phillips
Dr. Alan Gengenbach

EAU CLAIRE — Offering research opportunities to students from institutions that cannot provide them and increasing the diversity of students pursuing careers in the sciences are two important goals of a new summer chemistry program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Starting in June, UW-Eau Claire will offer a summer research program that will allow four UW-Eau Claire students and four students from regional two-year colleges to work together to conduct research under the direction of chemistry faculty members.

"We are reaching out to regional two-year institutions that have a significant population of students from underrepresented groups," said Dr. Jim Phillips, chair of the UW-Eau Claire chemistry department. "The program should encourage the students to continue their formal education after they complete their two-year program at their home institution. The relationships these students establish with UW-Eau Claire students and faculty during the summer program should increase the quality and diversity of students who transfer to UW-Eau Claire to study in the sciences."

The three-year program — funded by a highly competitive National Science Foundation grant — will support having the student researchers on campus for 10 weeks during each of the next three summers, said Dr. Alan Gengenbach, associate professor of chemistry and director of the program. This year's session will run from June 1 to Aug. 7, he said.

The four UW-Eau Claire students who are selected for the program will serve as mentors to the non-UW-Eau Claire student researchers, Gengenbach said. The students will work in pairs, which each pair working directly with a faculty member, he said.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for our department and the university to build connections to regional two-year institutions in an effort to recruit a more diverse group of students," Gengenbach said. "As project director, I met with students at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Itasca Community College, and the UW Colleges to describe the program. We received 16 applications to the program for the first year so there is definitely an interest."

The summer research projects will be in the areas of analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, biochemistry and materials science, Gengenbach said.

"The non-UW-Eau Claire students will join active research labs at UW-Eau Claire, gain hands-on experience with modern instrumentation, and become immersed in a student-centered research environment at a four-year institution," Gengenbach said, noting that the UW-Eau Claire students will gain mentoring experience along with their research experiences.

A weekly seminar series during the program will cover a variety of topics, such as scientific careers, the role of science in public policy and effective communication of scientific ideas, Gengenbach said. Each student in the program also will present the results of their research at an end-of-summer symposium.

"The summer lecture series and symposium featuring student presentations will provide a formal structure for the research experience for all students who are conducting chemistry research at UW-Eau Claire," Gengenbach said. "The presentations will introduce and discuss a variety of issues that are important for students contemplating careers in scientific fields."

Those participating in the 2009 summer program are: Erin Stuckert from UW-Eau Claire and Amy Bundy from Itasca Community College, working with Gengenbach; Tim Andrews from UW-Eau Claire and Joe Vejtasa from Itasca Community College, working with Dr. Kurt Wiegel, associate professor of chemistry; Ben Krentz from UW-Eau Claire and Heidi Mulheron from UW-Marinette, working with Dr. Warren Gallagher, associate professor of chemistry; and Teresa Swanson from UW-Eau Claire and Elizabeth Casper from UW-Fond du Lac, working with Dr. Scott Hartsel, professor of chemistry.

For more information about the research program, contact Dr. Alan Gengenbach at 715-836-5518 or gengenaj@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB

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