Summer programs held at FVSU prepare future scientists

Dr. Sarwan Dhir (front row, center), professor and director of Fort Valley State University’s Center for Biotechnology,
and Dr. Scott Angle (front row, 7th from the left), dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, pose July 20 with staff, faculty, administrators and students who participated in FVSU’s Summer 2012 Research Apprenticeship Program and Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Biotechnology program.

August 1, 2012 – While many students and professors enjoy vacations during the summer months, some Fort Valley State University faculty members, scientists and students engage in research.

For six weeks, 10 Georgia high school students participated in the Summer Research Apprenticeship Program. In addition, nine students from across the United States participated in Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Biotechnology summer program for 10 weeks. On July 20, both programs concluded with a closing ceremony in the Pettigrew Center.

Both National Science Foundation-sponsored programs serve to provide high school students with an academic foundation to ensure success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and aim to prepare undergraduate students for graduate studies.

At the closing ceremony, students shared PowerPoint presentations of their research with FVSU faculty, staff and family members. Some of the research topics included the use of plants to prevent parasites in goats, the impact of chemical spills on a community and the genetic transformation in plants. After their 10-minute presentations, students attended a luncheon where they received achievement certificates.
Luncheon keynote speaker Dr. Scott Angle, University of Georgia’s dean of College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, said these types of programs help expose students to the joys of science. In addition, he said students have a chance to create mentorship relationships early in their professions.

“By getting hooked up with a faculty mentor, students can receive a guide not just for the summer but for the rest of their career,” Angle said. This is helpful, he said, when applying to graduate school and for references and letters of recommendation.

Some students in the program expressed their relationships with the researchers they were paired with and their feelings about the programs.

Adriana Montanez, a biomathematics student from Puerto Rico, said FVSU researchers were extremely helpful. She said she was exposed to advanced material and other types of science that she might want to explore. As one of the few sophomores, Montanezhadn’t taken biology yet. She was grateful for her mentors’ patience.

“It wasn’t easy for me,” said Montanez, who attends Universidad Metropolitana. “The researchers sat down with me. They explained everything to me, so that was great.”

Before participating in the summer program, Marshelle Davis, 18, from Decatur was unsure about what field she wanted to go into, but now the incoming FVSU freshman plans to major in agricultural economics.

Dr. Sarwan Dhir, professor of plant biotechnology and director of both programs, said the programs continue to remain attractive because of the commitment from the faculty and the mentoring approach.

“We value one-on-one interaction,” said Dhir, who is also the director of the FVSU Center for Biotechnology. “Every student who comes through the program gains strong hands-on experience. They are also required to make a presentation which prepares them for graduate school.”

These programs serve as a recruitment tool for FVSU and as a springboard for students to pursue graduate degrees. They also recruit women and African Americans into STEM majors, Dhir said.

Since 1998, 179 high school students have participated in SRAP. FVSU enrolled 171 of those students, and 133 chose STEM majors. In addition, the college participants have presented nearly 105 papers at 12 scientific meetings in 10 states, including Puerto Rico.

As of 2011, 78 of the 90 college participants had earned degrees in biological sciences. Thirty-seven of the participants pursued graduate degrees at 12 institutions in 10 states and 28 pursued careers with homeland security, pharmaceutical companies and federal research institutions.

For more information concerning these summer programs, visit http://biotech.fvsu.eduor contact the FVSU Center for Biotechnology at (478) 825-6887.

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Contact:
FVSU Agricultural Communications Department
(478) 825-6345