From the Field to the Lab: A Look at the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program
Published on 16 July 2019
With increasing numbers of students expressing a desire to take part in undergraduate research opportunities, St. Louis College of Pharmacy has established the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.
Ehren Bucholtz, Ph.D., director of undergraduate programs and professor of organic chemistry, created the program and is working with other faculty mentors to enhance the experience for students.
“Students want to do research because they know that it will provide a practical application to what they learn in the classroom,” Bucholtz explained. “This program gives them an early introduction to lab work. It fosters their passion for science and lets them find out if research is something they really love and want to do.”
Through a competitive selection process, students can receive scholarship support and have the opportunity to participate in mentor-led research that can help them build skills for research-based careers.
“Many of us are trying to figure out what we want to do in pharmacy, and this program is a way of gaining hands-on exposure beyond the classroom,” stated first-year student Itzanami Osorio, a participant in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. “We are developing problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that are useful in the job market. These are basic skills that will be applicable no matter what career path we choose.”
Working under the guidance of Amy Reese, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology, Osorio is currently studying a mold that is linked to a snake fungal disease that is devastating certain snake populations. She is working to culture the fungus in a lab to study it. She hopes to learn how researchers might better control and protect against the fungus and treat infected snakes.
“The goal of the program is to make it collaborative and keep projects accessible,” Reese said. “Even if they don’t end up with the result they were hoping for, students are still learning about the research methodology, so they can make connections, anticipate outcomes and ask probing questions.”
First-year undergraduate research scholar Madison Moylan is working alongside Whitney Anthonysamy, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, on a collaborative wildlife biodiversity project with the Tyson Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis to monitor and detect wildlife species in urban, suburban and rural areas.
Using cameras along a 40-kilometer transect from downtown St. Louis to Eureka, Missouri, they are working to identify how species diversity and habitats change across the various landscapes in the region with the goal of helping future conservation efforts. St. Louis is one of 20 cities participating in the study.
“Since the project began, I have been able to see firsthand the different stages of the research project from planning and collaboration to collecting data in the field,” Moylan said. “It has been exciting to work with a faculty mentor and a larger research group. I feel like I’ve already learned so much.”
Anthonysamy and other faculty mentors note that participation in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program offers an invaluable opportunity for students to build knowledge and comfort in the lab, while also developing critical leadership and teamwork skills.
“Regardless of the project, we are building skills that are transferable to all types of research,” Anthonysamy explained. “Students are then able to apply what they learn to practical situations and expand their skillset to make them more competitive in future educational and career endeavors.”
SUPPORT UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHERS
There are many ways alumni and friends can help us grow the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. If you work in a research-based field, we invite you to share any student internship opportunities you have available, or provide your thoughts on the skills you think are critical for those in research positions. Together, we can create experiences that prepare students for their future careers.
Contact Ehren Bucholtz, Ph.D., director of undergraduate programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314.446.8487 to discuss research or summer internship opportunities for students, or to find out more about the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.
You also can help students succeed through your financial support. A gift to the Scholars Program Fund can help create invaluable experiences. Show your support by giving to the scholars program fund.
This story was featured in the Spring 2019 issue of Script Magazine. To read past issues of the magazine, visit the Script Magazine archive.