About the URM program
The goals of the URM program are to train and extensively mentor underrepresented undergraduate student scientists for graduate study in environmental biology, while augmenting our understanding of anthropogenic land-water interface stressors in the biodiversity, habitat, and water quality crises. URM students work within a larger, interdisciplinary effort investigating the central hypothesis that industrial, urban, and agricultural activities significantly alter land and water quality, ecological habitats, community structure, species composition, and genetic diversity at the land-lake interface. We are recruiting four cohorts of six students each, who engage in two calendar years of intensive, independent, integrated research and mentoring in order to prepare them for graduate school. These goals are met by:
- recruiting talented underrepresented students;
- providing an interdisciplinary multi-year research experience;
- engaging in intensive interactions with professors, graduate students, and environmental professionals;
- training students in effective scientific communication;
- enlarging and maintain a land-river-lake ecology, landscape, and genetic diversity data base; and
- gaining an independent research experience that integrates the scientific and sociocultural dimensions of ecosystem science.
Students are recruited from our TECHs (University of Toledo Early College High School) campus and from a large population of underrepresented students currently enrolled as undergraduates in several university departments. Each student has chosen a mentoring professor and works in a home laboratory where they develop a research hypothesis, learn experimental techniques and conduct closely-mentored, student-driven, independent research projects. URM students will interact in a joint curriculum while earning independent research credits, present their results at university conferences, and submit research papers to peer-reviewed journals. Each student enrolls in several existing courses. Research projects will be presented in first-authored presentations at our annual Sigma Xi Research Conference, guided by their mentor and home laboratory. The students regularly interact with agency and environmental professionals to develop an understanding of the ignificance and application of their research work.
This project facilitates the goal of assisting our nation in meeting the challenge of restoring degraded urban and agricultural land and waterways by enhancing research infrastructure and providing research opportunities and training to young, underrepresented students to prepare them for graduate school. This is facilitated by (and is enhancing) our existing high school interactions and our newly-funded NSF GK-12 program. Through our seminars, workshops, site visits and outreach, URM students integrate with research faculty, the environmental community (including federal, state and local government agencies) and citizen groups. Our web site will provide a hub for communication and information exchange, featuring URM student presentations, project descriptions, activities, and publications.
Project results are presented by the URM students on several levels, ranging from monthly, local seminars to publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Since disadvantaged, minority citizens are likely to experience polluted and degraded environments, URM students possess not only a fundamental understanding of the issues addressed in this program, but also a conviction to assist in finding solutions. Our URM program unites students with a real, impaired environmental system through which they can build an educational foundation focused on beneficial interaction with the natural environment, and hopefully improve their own local communities.