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ASU professors secure National Science Foundation grant for recruiting minority students

Nov. 12, 2007 – Arkansas State University's Dr. Roger Buchanan and Dr. Robyn Hannigan have secured a substantial Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to recruit minority or under-represented high school seniors who are interested in careers in science. The grant of $810,000 over a five-year period will involve first-year and second-year college students in mentored research teams and will provide peer and tutoring support. Most of the grant dollars will go to qualified students as scholarships and as wages. The URM will support the RISE-UP (Research Internships in Science of the Environment-University Program) program at ASU.

ASU's NSF-funded RISE-UP program is one of only eight such programs in the United States. The other seven are at the University of California's Riverside and Irvine campuses, the University of Wisconsin, City University of New York's (CUNY) Queens College, Miami University of Ohio, the University of New Mexico, and the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. Dr. Roger Buchanan, professor of zoology and neurobiology at ASU, and director of the RISE-UP program says, "Establishing the RISE-UP program at ASU would not have been possible without the investments that ASU and the state of Arkansas have made in the research enterprise here at ASU. This new program builds on the foundation of scientific excellence provided by the Arkansas Biosciences Institute and the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence. Without these programs, we would not have had the scientists or the facilities to establish this program at ASU."

The goal of RISE-UP is to produce highly competent minority undergraduate students who go on to enroll in and complete graduate degrees in the biological sciences. RISE-UP seeks specifically to increase access and opportunity for under-represented students.

Dr. Robyn Hannigan, professor of geochemistry and director of ASU's graduate program in Environmental Sciences and Judd Hill Professor of Environmental Science, says, "A major strength of ASU is its commitment to providing access and opportunity in the sciences to all students. We are absolutely determined to diversifying the science and technology workforce. ASU has an amazing legacy of providing high quality undergraduate science education through real-world research. Through the programs offered at ASU, our students gain access to state-of-the-art research technologies and to excellent research mentors, preparing these students for lifelong careers in the sciences." Hannigan, a professor of geochemistry, is the winner of the 2007 American Chemical Society Medal for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.

Students in their first year of college will be involved in a series of activities designed to foster skills in problem identification, problem characterization, oral, written, and technological communication, research, and analysis. Within the first year, students will be involved in meaningful research leading to presentation at national or international conferences and publication of their research in peer-reviewed scientific literature. Students will receive scholarships of up to $5,000 per year to use toward tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Students will also be paid as student researchers during the school year as part-time employees and during the summer as full-time employees. These students will also be involved in outreach back to their individual high schools.

Students will also join one of four collaborative cross-disciplinary research teams led by a senior faculty member and three to five other mentors. These teams will focus on research that reflects ASU's strengths in agri-environmental science and the molecular biosciences. Research foci of the groups are: Evolution of Streams through Urban and Rural Landscapes (incorporating field biology, chemistry, and environmental toxicology); Molecular Diagnostics and High-Throughput Technologies (incorporating molecular biology, biochemistry, and toxicology); Nanotoxicology (incorporating physiology, neurobiology, analytical chemistry, and environmental toxicology); and Metabolite Identification ( incorporating biochemistry, analytical chemistry, botany, molecular biology).

The research team for Evolution of Streams is led by Dr. Greg Phillips, and team members include Dr. Jennifer Bouldin, Dr. Al Christian, Dr. Carolyn Dowling, Dr. Steve Green, and Dr. Nate Young.  The team will investigate stream evolution through ecological changes, geochemical cycling, and biotic interactions.

The research team for Molecular Diagnostics is led by Dr. Carole Cramer, and faculty members include Dr. Soo Ahn, Dr. Al Christian, Dr. Maureen Dolan, and Dr. Argelia Lorence.

The research team for Nanotoxicology is led by Dr. Roger Buchanan and faculty members include Dr. Jennifer Bouldin, Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolívar, Dr. Argelia Lorence, and Dr. Robyn Hannigan.

The research team for Metabolite Identification is led by Dr. Robyn Hannigan, team leader, and faculty members include Dr. Jennifer Bouldin, Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolívar, and Dr. Argelia Lorence.

As Dr. Buchanan notes, "This unique partnership between science students and experienced professionals provides unparalleled opportunities for these students to develop their skill and pursue their scientific interests. RISE-UP students will not just be learning about science; they will be doing science with some of the best scientists in the world. They will be integral participants in cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary, collaborative research projects. When they leave ASU, they will be well on their way to becoming the next generation of scientists."

Faculty members will use an apprentice model and remain engaged in life-long mentorship of undergraduate students in the classroom, research setting, and beyond the undergraduate degree. The ultimate goal is for RISE-UP students is the completion of a research-based graduate program in the biological sciences. As Hannigan states, "ASU's faculty mentors are nationally and internationally recognized scientists who have continuously involved students in their research programs. The RISE-UP students will be able to transition into research assistant positions, thus ensuring that their involvement in research is maintained throughout their educations and their careers."

For more information, contact Dr. Roger Buchanan at (870) 682-4297 or Dr. Robyn Hannigan at (870) 972-3086, or see

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