A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S
I T Y
U M M E R 2 0 0 1
Endowment now supports Natural
Sciences undergraduate research program
By Anita Wahler
IN THE LAB: Alayne Brown '03
and Dr. Stacia Rink (Chemistry) work with radiolabeled DNA
behind a shield.
While science can appear to be just
facts and figures, its essence is profound curiosity about the
natural world. Students in the Natural Sciences Undergraduate
Research (UR) Program have a chance each summer to make the connection
between what they learn from textbooks and their innate curiosity.
Working one-on-one with faculty on research projects in the lab
and field and at the computer, students find out firsthand how
to formulate an important question. They also place it in the
context of other work, devise experiments and equipment to test
predictions, and determine the significance of results.
Research experience helps students
become independent problem solvers and compete more effectively
for scholarships, jobs, and acceptance into graduate programs.
Faculty mentors receive concrete assistance in their research,
and have the satisfaction of seeing students grow in competence,
confidence, and sophistication. While student discovery is the
critical element in the program, their collaboration with professors
is also key.
“Modern science calls for collaboration,”
states Dean of Natural Sciences and UR Program Director Dr. Chang-li
Yiu. “Skills in written and oral communication are both important
components in training a scientist.”
These skills are practiced when the
10 students and five faculty funded this summer through the division’s
second three-year grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
and PLU matching funds (along with those with other funding) meet
weekly to talk about their projects. At the end of the summer
the students prepare a report, give formal presentations at PLU,
and present a poster or talk at the annual regional UR conference
sponsored by the Trust.
“I believe in this program,” says
sophomore Alayne Brown, who did a project in plant molecular biology
with Professor Mary Ellard-Ivey last summer, and is currently
doing research on DNA mutations with Professor Stacia Rink . “It
helps you in classes, and teaches you a different way of thinking.”
PLU is in the process of establishing
an endow-ment fund to support faculty-student natural sciences
undergraduate research in response to a challenge grant from the
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Under the terms of this challenge,
PLU's Office of Development has raised $330,000 in gifts and pledges,
and the Trust has made a partial award of $130,000. To secure
additional funding from the Trust, PLU must raise $270,000 by
March 2002. An endowment of $1.5 to $2 million is planned to fully
support the program.