2012 Presidents’ Commission Scholars Announced

For the last couple of weeks the number one search term here at the CSUPERB blog has been “presidents commission scholars.”  We’ve also fielded calls from anxious and curious student and faculty applicants.   Yesterday award letters went out to 25 undergraduate researchers at 13 different CSU campuses.

The Presidents’ Commission Scholars will work with faculty mentors  and other student researchers this summer. The diversity of projects is fascinating. Students will explore infectious disease mechanisms, plant development, blue biotechnology, molecular diagnostic development, medical device design, and biofuel production.  The FCG has been particularly interested in building capacity system-wide for biofuels-related research; four of the Presidents’ Commission Scholars have biofuels projects queued up for the summer.

CSUPERB recognized that 98% of the undergraduates we funded last year were third and fourth year undergraduates.  Lopatto* and others have collected data indicating that students make the “greatest intellectual gains” if they get involved in faculty-mentored research projects early in their academic careers.  So we opened the Presidents’ Commission Scholars program to 1st, 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates.  In the proposals faculty mentors described a variety of clever recruiting strategies, including 10 minute recruiting pitches at the beginning of introductory chemistry and biology lectures.  As a result we’ve funded two freshmen and 11 sophomore researchers this summer. Eight of the scholars have not set foot in a research laboratory or worked with a research team before.  We sincerely hope these summer projects open doors, hone interests, build teams and inspire all involved.


*Lopatto, David. 2009. Science in Solution: the Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning. Tucson, AZ: Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

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    About Susan Baxter

    I'm the executive director of CSUPERB and the editor of this blog. Over my career, I've worked with teams to formulate new herbicide products, to figure out how transcription factors work in combination, to discover protein targets for new diabetes treatments, and to develop software for human population genetics studies. I started a biotechnology career because a couple of companies in Richmond, Virginia, offered me summer internships. Since then I’ve worked in major corporations, small start-ups, research institutions and academia. Now I'm working with CSUPERB, funding promising CSU students and faculty, and supporting biotechnology education and research across the 23 CSU campuses. It is a personal mission of mine to smash the myth of "the right academic pedigree." Biotechnology changes so rapidly that it is extremely limiting to ask students to chart an exact career path, focus on a particular technique, or build a defined technical skill-set. My career advice? Stay agile by keeping your mind open, exploring your own interests, and working alongside excellent colleagues on hard problems.

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