This is an archived article.

October 2, 1997

Top students graduate from an intensive summer of cloning, coatings and controlling mosquitoes

They spent their summer working in the lab instead of enjoying the sunshine, studying everything from cloning and protective coatings to mosquito control. On Friday, they will get their reward.

At a reception at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall, 50 undergraduates will be honored for their summer research sponsored by the Washington Space Grant Consortium. The students will present posters detailing their discoveries, and in turn will be presented with certificates by Provost Lee Huntsman, who will deliver the keynote address.

The ceremony will also honor 17 incoming freshmen who have been awarded Space Grant scholarships to study at the UW. The undergraduate awards, which are renewable for up to four years, will enable the students to study math, science or engineering. Two graduate students sponsored by the program also will be honored.

The summer research program has given practical science experience to 176 undergraduates since it began in 1993, making it a model for UW President Richard McCormick’s goal to involve more undergraduates in faculty research projects. This year’s program was supported by $80,000 in grants from the NASA Space Grant Program at the UW, the Mary Gates Foundation, and from faculty research grants.

The funding supported 48 UW undergraduates, half of them Space Grant scholarship students, and two students from Washington State University and Harvard. Each student was employed up to 40 hours a week by a UW faculty member doing research in science, engineering or math.

Thus Michael Brown, who is chairman of the geophysics department, employed Marcus Collins of Woodinville (who has already presented his research at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union) to assist in his research on the Earth’s mantle; chemistry professor Martin Gouterman employed Myrna Vitavosic, a 15-year-old early- entry student, to assist him with his study on pressure-sensitive paint; and Joan Sanders, an assistant professor of bioengineering, was helped on her study of mechanical stress by another early-entry student, Sam Bishop, 15.

Perhaps the most unusual research project was that participated in by Anne Prather, a post-baccalaureate researcher under associate botany professor Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh, whose lab is studying the physiology of leaf growth and development. Prather’s research assistant was Anna Schneider, a senior from Seattle, who is blind.

Prather, who is legally blind, spent much of the summer course teaching Schneider basic lab techniques for a blind person: handling delicate equipment, identifying plant anatomy by feel, and learning the safe and effective way of transferring liquids. Says Schneider, who is studying cellular and molecular biology: “I always wanted to do lab work, but it was never possible until now.”

These two students’ hard work give support to Space Grant director Janice Decosmo’s view that “this summer program is not just financial aid–it is all about hands-on experience helping to enhance classroom work.”

The awards ceremony is on Oct. 3 in the Walker-Ames Room, Kane Hall, on the University of Washington campus, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Decosmo can be reached at (206) 685-8542, or janice@geophys.washington.edu

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