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.