Research Experiences Are Elemental Part of Science Education

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Science-related careers in the 21st Century require more than just theoretical understanding of the topic. Now graduate schools and employers expect students to have the hands-on experience that comes from doing scientific research.

To give Science majors at MCC a competitive edge when transferring to a four-year college or university, the Science and Mathematics Division at MCC is committed to offering students undergraduate research opportunities. “Undergraduate research opportunities have a broad impact on the individual student,” said Dr. Ron Stamper, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. “Research experience readies the student for the next level of college and develops skills that they can apply throughout their career.”

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From a student perspective, undergraduate research opportunities provide a safe, short-term way to determine if their field of study and chosen career field are a good fit. It also can make the difference in the job market, serving as the required “work experience” many recent graduates need to land an interview.

“Having research experience gives undergraduate students a better understanding of how to balance collaborative and individual work,” said Stamper. “Research is often performed in teams, and job-related experience working on a team makes students more marketable after graduation.”

To facilitate offering MCC students more research opportunities, Stamper, Dr. Charles Wade, Professor of Biology, and Robert Dudock, Associate Professor of Biology, are developing a multidisciplinary research space in the Gorman Science Building for students to undertake directed research in biology, chemistry, and biochemistry.

Research areas will include organic, and biological chemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, and plant science. “We will have the ability to grow plants, as well as cultures of bacteria and yeast, depending on the project,” said Stamper, “giving students research experiences applicable to real-world problems such as bioremediation, directed evolution, and antifungal drug development.”

It is expected that work done in the lab will lead to individual student presentations at local and regional research conferences, giving students the added experience of presenting their research.  Additionally, work amassed by several students will be combined and submitted for journal publication, as appropriate, according to Stamper.

Stamper said another goal of the MCC undergraduate research initiative is to create additional research opportunities through collaboration. “We will be working with faculty at UM-Flint and Kettering to enable collaborations and to help talented MCC students find their next opportunity,” he said.

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MCC has partnered with Kettering University in the University’s Research Experience Undergraduate (REU) program this summer. MCC student Cameron Ferderer was selected to fill one of only ten positions available.  The National Science Foundation-funded program provides students an opportunity to work with faculty and students from many disciplines on a variety of projects.  Students selected for the program receive room and board to live on-campus at Kettering University for eight weeks during the summer research experience, and will also be paid a weekly stipend.

Cameron will be working primarily with Dr. Mary Gilliam and Dr. Susan Farhat of the Chemical Engineering department to develop alternative construction materials derived from natural sources.  Their project is entitled “Surface Engineering of Natural Fibers for Composites Using Atmospheric Plasma.”

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