CISER provides CASNR undergraduates with real-world research experience
For years Texas Tech's Center for the Integration of STEM Education and Research has offered an authentic research experience for College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources undergraduates, starting with what's known as the Undergraduate Research Scholars. STEM is shorthand for science, technology, engineering and math.
Tech's Undergraduate Research Scholars program relies on professors and researchers acting as mentors for the undergrads. Today, those mentors have the ability to hire and fire undergraduate students based on performance, work ethic, initiative and dedication to a student's research experience.
"Our faculty mentors really care about the students, and can make all the difference in a great undergraduate experience," said Julie Isom, CISER's Associate Program Director of Research. "They go the extra mile, allowing undergraduates into their research projects and seeing they are educated, trained and inspired to do good work that has the potential to be presented at professional research meetings and publish their results in peer-reviewed journals."
The CISER center focuses on early and continuous involvement in long-term research projects, including presenting and publishing their research. The more than 500 Tech scholars from across the university who've gone through the program have had 110 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and many of those articles have the student scholars as the first author.
Among the CASNR students currently involved in the program are:
- Paden Ortega, a junior food science major from Lubbock; (Mentor: Mindy Brashears, Department of Animal and Food Sciences)
- Hector Valencia, a senior wildlife management major from Lubbock; (Mentor: Kerry Griffis-Kyle, Department of Natural Resources Management)
Other CASNR students who have recently participated in the CISER center program are:
- David Campos, a graduate student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences; (Mentor: Mindy Brashears)
- Erin Castelli, a graduate student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences; (Mentor: Mindy Brashears)
- Carlos Garcia, a graduate student in the Department of Natural Resources Management; (Mentor: Richard Steven)
- Katelyn Ortega, a graduate student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences; (Mentor: Mindy Brashears)
- Cara Wessels, a graduate student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences; (Mentor: Sam Prien)
CISER students formed the Scholar Service Organization in 1997, so students could give back to the community through projects related to research, Isom said. One of these projects is the annual Research Carnival. The Scholar Service Organization also gives five research travel awards to three graduate and two undergraduate student researchers who presented at the carnival during the fall semester. It also hosts several other events throughout the year, including the Undergraduate Research Conference, Scholar Research Forum, book club and ethics roundtables and annual scholar retreats.
Alumni of the CISER program have gone on to careers in medicine and law, among others, and the experience they receive through working their own research problems cannot be gained in any other way. The activities the programs offer expose students to different backgrounds and cultures. The STEM Education program also offers resources for teaching, including the Traveling Lab program.
"Being a part of CISER has demonstrated that certainly a number of undergraduate students are fully capable of research that might otherwise be considered masters or doctorate level projects," said Lou Densmore, former director of the Texas Tech/Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Program at CISER. "It has shown me the value of student ownership and investment in the research endeavor. I have seen tremendous growth in individual students both as researchers or future teachers and as young adults."
Reporting by Emily Gardner
CONTACT: Michael Ballou, Associate Dean for Research, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2808 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0106NM16 / Editor's Note: For more information on the CISER undergraduate research program and how to become involved, visit its website
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