Undergrad research program to end
After five years and $627,150, the National Science Foundation is ending a grant that enabled students from historically underrepresented groups to engage in undergraduate research.
The Biology Undergraduate Mentoring Program started in September 2009 as a way to increase the number and diversity of students pursuing graduate studies in biological research.
Students selected for BUMP received financial support for two years and were given mentored research opportunities, as well as seminar courses to prepare them for applying to graduate school.
"By getting into a research lab (students) are modeling the behavior and the science (they) want to do down the road," said Anna Monfils, co-director of the program. "It gives them more academic maturity and molds the direction of those students to get into (a) graduate program."
Monfils said the foundation is discontinuing the grant after this academic year, and the program is scheduled to end officially in August 2015 on the NSF grant awards website.
At least 27 faculty members in the Department of Biology agreed to serve as potential research mentors, and these faculty members were dedicated to both teaching and facilitating research opportunities for 13 students in the five years of the program.
Their assigned mentors were an integral part of the research conducted for two years, working with students 10-12 hours a week during the academic semesters, and 35-40 hours a week for 12 weeks during the summer.
"The opportunity (for students) to develop their own research questions and collect data in the field is important, but so is that interaction they have with their mentor," said Tracy Galarowicz, chair of the biology department. "The funding gives them the ability to go to conferences to present their research and network with other scientists and it's really important to see everything that goes into a research project, because it's not just limited to collecting data."
In the first year of the program, students were required to complete a course in scientific communication, write a research thesis proposal with their mentor, and present a poster of their research proposal at the annual BUMP Symposium.
In the second year, they took a GRE preparation course, wrote a research thesis based on their research and then gave an oral presentation of their research results at the symposium.
Students were taught how to apply to graduate school and did so in their second year in the program.
Ideally, every student coming out of the biology program would have undergraduate research Galarowicz said. She said it is difficult for some students to get involved because of the financial burden of working without pay.
BUMP allowed underrepresented students the ability to gain that vital experience, when they may not have been able to otherwise.
BUMP is just one of several NSF funded research grants at CMU, although Monfils said cuts in federal funding have made the organization more selective with where their money goes.
"What I think we do better than anywhere else is giving (students) undergrad research opportunities where they work with the professor on publishable research," she said. "We have a strength in mentoring and making that a meaningful experience. I think we do that better than anyone else in the state."