150 Next-Generation Women Scientists Converge in Coeur d'Alene

Monday, November 2 2009

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Approximately 150 tenth-grade girls will conduct laboratory tests alongside working scientists in University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho College labs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Nov. 3 and 4. A full schedule of events is available upon request.

High School Students Will Conduct Water Quality Research in University of Idaho and NIC Science Labs

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – University of Idaho scientists are rounding up bright young women from Idaho’s five northernmost counties to spark the students’ curiosity and fuel their interest in science.

Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 3 and 4, approximately 150 tenth-grade girls will conduct research in the university’s new science laboratory, at University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene Harbor Center, 1013 North Academic Way, and at the North Idaho College campus at 1000 West Garden Ave. in Coeur d'Alene.

Participating students are chosen by teachers and advisers, and illustrate aptitude and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM fields.

“The United States is facing a critical situation in math and science,” said Scott Wood, dean of the College of Science at the University of Idaho. “American students typically rank in the bottom third in worldwide assessments of math and science skills, and we are facing a severe shortage in scientists, mathematicians and engineers to do the work that helps our economy grow and improves our way of life."

“The nation cannot afford to ignore this vast untapped potential,” he said. “The Women in Science program is designed to encourage young women to pursue science careers by showing them that science is fun and relevant to their daily lives, and that women can succeed in STEM careers.”

The College of Science developed and initiated the Women in Science program, launching it in April, 2007. It has since evolved and expanded, with the help of the University of Idaho Boise Center, the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene Center and the College of Education.

This is the second year Women in Science has been offered in northern Idaho, and the first year the university will partner with North Idaho College to deliver the program.

The university will host the women in its new science laboratory at the Coeur d’Alene Center. The space formerly served as the Idaho State Police Forensics Lab. There, the young women will work alongside scientists to analyze and profile water quality, using samples taken at various locations along the Spokane River. They will conduct chemical and electronic tests for hardness, pH and conductivity, and use their findings to deduce the source of the samples, ultimately providing a profile of Spokane River water quality.

Working with scientist at NIC, students will determine the most probable number of total coliforms and Escherichia coli (E.coli) present in water samples. Based on those findings, they will deduce the source of the samples: public drinking water, private well water, city beach water or river water.

At both locations, students will be introduced to equipment, scientific procedure, women and men working in the STEM fields, and one of the region’s and the world’s most immediate environmental issues – water quality.

“University of Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene campus, on the shore of the Spokane River, offers a unique opportunity for scientific research and outreach,” said Larry Branen, University of Idaho associate vice president for Northern Idaho and a nanotechnologies researcher in food science. “The rivers and lakes of the region serve as a natural laboratory in which to study science, particularly environmental science."

“The group we worked with last year illustrated, pretty conclusively, that interest in the sciences is strong among these young women,” Branen added. “They bring a lively curiosity and aptitude to the lab work. We really hope to capitalize on that interest, and hopefully, bring some of these women into the STEM fields.”

Participating scientists at the Harbor Center include: Wood, a geochemist, Branen, food science researcher; chemist Anne Kern, science curriculum and instruction faculty at University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene; microbiologist David Newcombe, assistant director of the Water Resources Research Institute and assistant professor of environmental science at University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene; Shiva Rastogi, chemist and research scientist for University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene’s Biosensor and Nanotechnology Application Laboratory (BNAL); Charlene Gibson, scientific aide for BNAL; Michele Wiest, statistician and University of Idaho assistant professor of statistics; Mark Nielsen, associate dean in the university’s College of Science; and Tom Williams, College of Science assistant dean.

University of Idaho professor Carolyn Bohach, director of the IDea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) for the state of Idaho and E. coli researcher, and Rhena Cooper, microbiology professor at NIC and Idaho INBRE Outreach core coordinator, will lead activities on the NIC campus.

On Tuesday at NIC, the students will hear research presentations by women working the STEM fields, including: University of Idaho’s Bohach; Roxana Hickey, a senior in the lab of University of Idaho professor Larry Forney; and Katie Margulieux, a senior in the lab of University of Idaho professor Gustavo Arrizabalaga.

Wednesday’s Women in Science presentation at NIC will be made by University of Idaho Assistant Professor of Microbiology Jill Johnson.

Groups of students will move between the university and the college, switching campuses at 11 a.m., on both Tuesday and Wednesday, to participate in events.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.