This is a blog about Wyoming EPSCoR, the projects we do and the grants we are working on. From student internship programs, to grant work, to research, we're sharing our news and stories for our community to read and share. Thank you for visiting our site!
SRAPer: Maddie Zoltek
Home state: Illinois
Grade in school: High School Senior
Plans after High School: Attend college to study biochemistry or biomedical
Maddie Zoltek hasn't always loved science. Her sophomore
year of high school, however, changed that.
“I hated science up until then; I didn't think it was
interesting,” Maddie says. “But when I took chemistry my sophomore year, I
really liked it because of the awesome teacher I had. So, I started doing more
research and getting more involved in it.”
Her love for chemistry continued to grow, leading her to
want to pursue a degree in biochemistry.
“I thought chemistry was really interesting,” Maddie says. “Whenever
we did labs in class, I loved doing them. I like the math involved too; it was
just something that I really understood and I feel like I can apply it in a lot
of ways. I just thought it was such a cool class.”
“I have been working with fuel cells,” Maddie says. “When we make a fuel cell using the
alternative approach, we dip the membrane in a chemical solution serving as a
‘glue’ instead of using heat and mechanical pressing. My project involves
testing the effect of different times on the durability and overall performance
of fuel cells.”
A fuel cell creates an electric current from a chemical
reaction and is used in areas such as transportation, stationary power, and
“The kind of fuel cell we work with generates electricity
from hydrogen and oxygen,” says Dr. Li. “And then you can generate electricity
in which you can stack all of these single cells up to power your car.”
Maddie says that one of her favorite parts about creating
and testing fuel cells is being able to work in the lab and get her hands
“The most interesting part is actually just being able to
make the solutions yourself and make the fuel cells yourself and have a
hands-on approach,” says Maddie. “Because up until now we’ve only been learning
about it and talking about chemistry and other science disciplines, so the
opportunity to use classroom knowledge is really cool.”
The research that Maddie is working on and the techniques
she’s learning will be beneficial for her future.
“The molecule she’s using is mostly used in biochemistry,” says
Dr. Li. “Researchers use that compound for various reasons in the field of
Maddie is greatly enjoying her research project this summer,
and she’s excited about the opportunity to be working in the field she loves
while gaining invaluable knowledge and experience.
SRAPer: Makenna Fair
Home State: Colorado
Year in school: Freshman in College
Future Plans: Attend CSU, studying biology
Most teenagers don’t dream of spending their summers studying science. But for Makenna, studying science is something that has always interested her.
“I just like science,” Makenna says. “I’ve always been interested in science. Just being outside and being able to research about what I learn about the outdoors; it’s cool”.
Makenna is working with Dr. Amy Krist and graduate student Brenna Hansen. Last year, Dr. Krist and Brenna worked with a SRAP student and studied the differences in nutrient content of algae, which snails eat, along a stream bed. This year, Makenna is adding to that research by studying snails themselves.
“We are doing a behavioral study on the New Zealand mudsnail, the invasive species that has invaded parts of North America, Europe, and Australia,” says Makenna. “We are testing population densities and how the snails behave in different population densities.”
The idea for this project came from Brenna, who identified in her thesis research the potential benefits that snails may receive from living in high densities.
“One of the benefits seems to be facilitating food location,” says Brenna. “The motivation behind this experiment is to determine whether mudsnails use high densities of conspecifics (same species) to locate food using visual cues (seeing clusters of individuals near/on food) or whether they follow chemical trails released by feeding conspecifics.”
Understanding this phenomena about the snails may help researchers like Brenna and Dr. Krist, and perhaps one day Makenna, identify ways to control the invasive nature of this species.
Makenna says her favorite part about this research is seeing how it all matches up.
“All of it is important, so it all ties together,” she says.
As Makenna looks forward to beginning a degree in biology, she is gaining invaluable research experience in SRAP. In the future, Makenna may not continue to study snails, but she is gaining knowledge about the research process and learning to write research papers, which will give her an advantage when she starts at university in the fall.
Future Plans: Attend a university, Johns Hopkins perhaps, and earn a
degree in pre-med
Most high school seniors are thinking about the future and
their plans for higher education. Quentin is no exception, but his plans for
the future go beyond his undergraduate degree.
“I really want to join the Peace Corps or Doctors without
Borders after medical school or after undergraduate school,” says Quentin. “I
can only think that a medical degree would help me with that.”
Right now, Quentin is looking for experiences that will help
him help others. SRAP, he says, is one of those opportunities.
“I started looking online for summer programs and people had
made lists of summer programs and posted them on Google,” Quentin says. “So, I
opened one of those lists, clicked through it and the best one I saw was SRAP.”
His first two weeks in the program have not left him
disappointed and for the next month he will continue to work with his mentors,
Dr. Walt Scott and second-year graduate Stephanie Bachtelle, from the UW Psychology Department on his project about cultural identity.
“We’re going to be studying how Native American youth
identify themselves, whether as more western or more Native American, and how
that will affect their goals and what they plan to do,” Quentin says.
To do so, Quentin is going through surveys that Dr. Scott
has been collecting from youth on the Wind River Indian Reservation since 2001.
“We’re interested in whether differences in cultural
identity as reported on the self-report measure predict the kinds of goals kids
are thinking about for the future,” Dr. Scott says.
For Quentin, the most intriguing aspect of this research is
realizing that every person is unique.
“I’m most interested in the idea that basically, one
construct of psychology can’t really be directly applied to everybody,” Quentin
says. “I would say that everybody is a little bit different.”
As a soon to be high school senior, important decisions are
right around the corner. But for Quentin, with his unique perspective, respect
for diversity and motivation, he is sure to reach his goal and make a
difference in the world. SRAP
is a six-week intensive research program for high school students. It is based
at the University of Wyoming and sponsored
by Wyoming EPSCoR.
plans: Attend the University of Wyoming to study Physical Therapy
different types of science is one of Kaycee Perez’s favorite parts of the STEM
fields. As a second year SRAPer, Kaycee has experience d differences in science
fields as she has worked in both pharmaceutical research and now in psychology.
While last year she was studying diabetes, this year she is focused on
“My project is
focusing on if being bilingual has an effect on whether when you’re a juror,
that affects your verdict,” says Kaycee. “I think the most interesting part is just
seeing if being bilingual actually does have an impact on your decision making,”
says Kaycee. The idea for
Kaycee’s project came from her mentor, graduate student Victoria Estrada, who
had extra data from her thesis. “When I
presented it to Kaycee, she was on board with it”, says Victoria. “She was like
‘Oh, this could be interesting’.” Victoria and
Kaycee will also be branching out to other participants to get more up to date
data. "We are
going to try to run an extension project using online participants and look at
whether people are more willing to help either monolingual English or
monolingual Spanish speakers; we are looking to see if people are biased
against monolingual Spanish speakers,” says Victoria. This project
is vastly different than the one that Kaycee worked on last year, and she is
enjoying the change of focus. “I’m most looking
forward to being with a different department. Last year I was with pharmacy and
psychology is a lot different than that,” says Kaycee. At the end
of the program, Kaycee will get the opportunity to see all of the different
projects her fellow SRAPers have been working on. SRAP students are placed in
many different departments, including molecular biology, botany, chemical
engineering, geography, electrical and computer engineering and more.Each student will have the opportunity to
present their research and findings during a formal presentation on July 19th.
Plans after high school: Attend a four year college and
study a chemistry related subject
For Christopher Hoyt, studying corn
genetics isn’t anything new. Christopher, a soon to be high school senior,
participated in SRAP last summer and worked on corn genetics with his mentor,
Dr. Carolyn Rasmussen. This year, he’s back at it again, but with a variation
on the area of focus. “What we’re working on this year is
a protein called tangled,” Christopher says. “The tangled mutant has irregular cell divisions. So, instead of them
being parallel or perpendicular, they divide at a bunch of weird, awkward
angles.” Other studies on Tangled have led
researchers to believe that the gene helps with how new cell divisions are
placed. Christopher’s project this summer will add to this body of research. “What I’m trying to do is figure
out how the protein moves,” Christopher said. To do this, he is using a technique
called Fluorescence Recovery After Photo-bleaching (FRAP). The first part of
the FRAP technique requires Christopher to zap part of a cell with a laser.
This decreases the fluorescence and allows Christopher to then track the process
of that part of the cell becoming fluorescent again. The current time-frame
used is around seven seconds, requiring Christopher to be focused, fast and
careful. “This is technically a tough
project,” says Dr. Rasmussen. “But, since I worked with Christopher last year,
I thought ‘The sky’s the limit. We can do the most tricky project and I know he
will pull it off.’” In addition to his interest in the
numerous techniques he can use in his project, Christopher is excited to get to
know the other SRAPers. “I’m most looking forward to
learning more about the current SRAPers this year, because once I finally did
get to know all the SRAPers last year, it was just fantastic!” SRAP is a six-week intensive research program for high school students. It is based at the University of Wyoming and sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR.
By Robin E. Rasmussen and Kali S. McCrackin Photo by Robin Rasmussen
The western United States is
rampant with water issues, especially as wildfires dominate most of the summer
months. To help understand water systems and ensure strong water-management
plans, CI-WATER researchers are developing models. On Monday, some of these
researchers will begin a month-long course with undergraduate students to teach
them the importance of modeling and how models can make a difference in the
future of water in the West.
The Research Experience for
Undergraduates (REU) begins June 17 at the University of Wyoming (UW) and will focus on high performance
computing and watershed modeling. Through lectures and hands-on research
students will solve complex computational science problems, learn to work in
team research situations and improve programming skills. An optional, week-long
course on watershed modeling systems will follow REU.
This year, REU is being led by
Dr. Fred Ogden, a professor in Civil Engineering at UW, and Dr. Craig Douglas,
a professor of Mathematics at the UW. Both Dr. Ogden and Dr. Douglas are
researchers on the CI-WATER grant.
it comes to the natural environment, Wyoming and Mississippi do not have a lot
in common. The arid plains and mountains of Wyoming contrast drastically with
the humid plains of central Mississippi. The differences, however, offer ample
opportunity for an expansion of knowledge. Tomorrow, students from both states
will join together to begin a two week field research course focused on
hydrology, ecology and geophysics.
field course is the beginning of a collaboration between Jackson State
University (JSU) and the University of Wyoming (UW) through the Wyoming Center for
Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG). The goal is to offer students
from both institutions a chance for exposure to new environments while increasing
knowledge of field techniques and equipment use. Dr. Scott Miller, one of the
principal investigators for WyCEHG and a lead for the camp, believes that such
a collaboration offers important new opportunities for everyone involved. “The collaboration is compelling for several
reasons,” says Dr. Miller. “For one, the geologic and hydrologic settings of
the southeastern United States and the Rocky Mountains provide an excellent
contrast for field studies and environmental interpretation. Second, students
from both institutions will gain familiarity and exposure to very different
physical and cultural geographies. Third, faculty and students at JSU and
Wyoming have shared research interests, and this field course will provide a
mechanism for academic exchange. Students will be trained on various critical
techniques, including field observation and use of hydrogeophysical equipment
that will prepare them for both the job market and academic research.” Faculty from UW that will be teaching parts of
the course include Dr. Miller, from ecosystem science and management; Dr. Steve Holbrook,from geology and geophysics; from Dr. Dave
Williams, from ecosystem science and management and the director of the Stable
Isotope Facility; Dr. Brent Ewers, from the botany department; and Dr. Brad
Carr, manager of the Facility for Imaging the Near and Sub-surface Environment.
Together, the team will create a dynamic,
interdisciplinary research experience. More information about the field course and
the JSU-UW collaboration can be found at:http://www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/2013/05/jackson-state-university-contingent-to-study-hydrology-at-uw-this-summer.html
The weekend is fast approaching,
but for Summer Research Apprentice Program (SRAP) participants and coordinator
Lisa Abeyta, that does not mean rest and relaxation. Instead, the twenty-two
high school students enrolled in the program will travel to the University of
Wyoming and Lisa will be ready to meet them. This weekend’s activities include
moving into the Honors House, where the students will live for the six-week
program and a welcome lunch with Vice President of the Office of Research and
Economic Development, Bill Gern.
On Monday, the students will
begin their research in science labs alongside graduate students and
professors. These research projects are intended to give SRAP participants real,
hands-on experience in scientific research in order to encourage and support
students interested in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
fields. Each student will work on a unique project, which will culminate in a
written paper and oral presentation.
SRAP was started in 1985 to
provide minority and first-generation, college-bound students with hands-on
experience in STEM fields. It is Wyoming EPSCoR’s longest running program and
this year we are excited to have students working in fields as varied as
Watershed Management, Chemical Engineering and Psychology.