NDSU receives $2.9 million NSF award to help post-baccalaureate students get involved with research

NDSU has received a Research and Mentoring for Post-baccalaureates (RaMP) in Biological Sciences grant of nearly $2.9 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The university is one of only 12 institutions nationwide to receive the award which will provide opportunities for recently graduated undergraduate students to participate in a research lab and develop a network of research mentors across North Dakota. This combination holds promise in fueling the state’s STEM workforce while providing the environment necessary to create tomorrow’s high-tech industries.

The program, titled "Exploration of Variation across Levels of Organization in a CHANGEable World: Fostering CHANGE through Research in a Community of Practice," will be called NDSU CHANGE.

NDSU CHANGE will run for four years and will support full-time research, mentoring, and training for recent college graduates. These opportunities will greatly benefit participants who have had little or no research or training opportunities during college in research fields typically supported by the NSF Directorate of Biological Sciences.

Tim Greives, NDSU associate professor of biological sciences and PI for the project sees how NDSU CHANGE can benefit a certain group of people. “This program spoke to us as educators because we’ve all observed students who were either working full-time or had other life restrictions that didn’t give them the opportunity to participate in research during their undergraduate years. Our team knows firsthand how important research experiences are for students in whatever careers they choose, so we were excited to be able to create a program that would offer those experiences to them.”

CoPIs are Jennifer Momsen, NDSU professor of biological sciences and director of Discipline Based Education Research (DBER) and Britt Heidinger, NDSU associate professor of biological sciences and the coordinator for the NATURE Sunday Academy Program. Greives and Heidinger will manage the development of the biological themes upon which the mentees will work.

NDSU CHANGE participants will work on research projects with mentor researchers from NDSU, Tribal Colleges in North Dakota and the USDA, USGS, and Nature Conservatory. Each participant will work for one year in a lab and will receive a paycheck for their time. “We’ll start by funding three cohorts of 8-12 individuals each year,” commented Greives. “They will be located both at NDSU and at the Tribal Colleges in North Dakota.”

“This program provides time to learn through active full-time engagement with research while helping participants determine their next steps, which may be graduate school or industry.” Greives added.

The experiences that both Momsen and Heidinger bring in developing mentors will fit well into the program. “Learning how to mentor is not something we teach enough,” said Momsen. “My previous experiences running an REU program made me realize that my knowledge about mentoring and learning would be an asset to this project.”

“By helping create new professionals among groups that didn’t have the opportunity to experience research during their undergraduate years, the NDSU CHANGE program will help build a diverse research workforce and increase innovative scientific skills,” said Kimberly Wallin, dean of science and math at NDSU. “This aligns with our strategic initiatives in the College of Science and Math for research and mentoring and I look forward to seeing how Tim, Jenni, and Britt’s work will help build upon the entrepreneurial environment in North Dakota and beyond.”

Post-baccalaureates will be considered for the project through an application process which may initiate either with the individual or with an educator who sees potential in a student. Developing both the application process and recruitment strategies are among the first tasks facing the team.

The NSF hopes that this program will foster the growth of a globally competitive and diverse research workforce and will advance the innovative scientific skills of the country.

For more information about "Exploration of Variation across Levels of Organization in a CHANGEable World: Fostering CHANGE through Research in a Community of Practice," see NSF award abstract 2216605.

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