Summer Research Programs Cultivate a New Generation of Scientists

Friday, July 23 2010


Written by Elizabeth Carney

MOSCOW, Idaho – Ethan White Temple’s experience with the University of Idaho was limited to attending football games before he participated in Helping Orient Indian Students and Teachers (HOIST) to Science and Mathematics last summer.

HOIST is an educational program that encourages Native American youth to complete high school and to pursue science and technology related post-secondary studies. This five-week summer program coordinated by Steven Martin, director of the University of Idaho’s Native Student Center, allows high school students to work directly with research lab staff and faculty and to take college preparatory math and English courses.

White Temple, a Nez Perce and Standing Rock Sioux tribal member, worked with Barrie Robison, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, examining the effects of selenium on zebra fish. He also assisted in experiments that simulated the sort of alarm cues that would alert a school of fish to the presence of a predator in order to study the reaction process.

“We don’t get to do science like that in high school, we mostly just read books and answer questions,” said White Temple.

Before he enters the University of Idaho this fall as a freshman, White Temple is spending another summer engaged in a new research project, this time as a recipient of an Idaho Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) award for research experiences.

White Temple is working with Robert Heinse, research professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences, on a project to characterize soil moisture dynamics, as a first step toward predicting water availability in a changing climate. The research involves a multi-scale measurement approach that includes characterizing forest soils and imaging soil disturbance.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) program in Idaho, which also partially funds HOIST, allows high school and undergraduate students to explore their interests alongside of nationally recognized university professors and their research teams, most in areas related to Water Resources in a Changing Climate – the theme for the current NSF EPSCoR grant.

“This investment allows students to experience research at an early stage of their academic life,” said Peter Goodwin, Idaho EPSCoR project director. “It is a great way to integrate research and education, and it encourages students to remain active in research for years to come.”

Such hands-on experiences have helped many Idaho students choose a major and have put them on track to become future engineers and scientists. Idaho EPSCoR has supported student research for more than 20 years. This summer, a total of 24 Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) projects are being conducted at the University of Idaho, Boise State University and Idaho State University.

At the University of Idaho, faculty participating in REUs include: assistant professor Tim Frazier in the Geography Department and Bioregional Planning program; assistant professor Robert Heinse in the Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences; assistant professor Elowyn Yager from the Department of Civil Engineering at University of Idaho Boise; and three faculty from the College of Natural Resources Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources: assistant professor Brian Kennedy, professor Christine Moffitt and associate professor Kerri Vierling.
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About Idaho EPSCoR
EPSCoR is a program designed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to strengthen research and education in science and engineering throughout the United States and to avoid undue concentration of such research and education.” Twenty-nine jurisdictions currently participate. EPSCoR establishes partnerships with higher education, government, and industry and provides support for key research areas at Idaho’s public universities. The goal is to stimulate lasting improvements in research infrastructure, R&D capacity and hence, our national R&D competitiveness. For more information about this program and other Idaho EPSCoR projects visit www.webs.uidaho.edu/epscor or e-mail epscor@uidaho.edu.

Media Contact: Rick Schumaker, Idaho EPSCoR, (208) 885-5742, rschumak@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, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.