When you give a college student the choice between a summer full of lazy mornings languishing on the couch or a summer getting up early to engage in scientific research in a full-fledged lab, the choice might seem to be easy. However, at Washington University in St. Louis and at other schools across the country, there are numerous undergraduates taking advantage of summer research opportunities. Washington University has a long tradition of undergraduate participation in research, one developed further by programs created by Sarah Elgin, Ph.D., professor of biology; biochemistry and molecular biophysics; and education in Arts & Sciences with financial support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Elgin has spent her career as a genomic biologist at Washington University in St. Louis often embracing those individuals who are not usually a part of scientific research and creating scientific research opportunities for them. She continues to participate in a program that places approximately 35 fellows in a university lab individually to do summer research. Elgin believes that the goal of education is to learn "how knowledge is created in a discipline," and a summer research opportunity is the first step to achieving this goal.
Elgin spoke Feb. 19, 2006, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held Feb. 16-20 in St. Louis.
In an attempt to evaluate the efficacy of the summer science research program, Elgin looked to a collaborative national effort. With additional grant funding from HHMI, she developed a collaborative group to work with David Lopatto, Ph.D., professor of psychology at
Grinnell College, who created an online assessment tool for the undergraduate summer research participants to take after their research experience. In its first year, 1,135 students participated in the online survey. The second year brought approximately 2,000 students' participation.
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Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis
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