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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Chile Pepper Institute Ramps Up Migrant Scholar Program

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute is preparing students from migrant families for scientific careers with a summer devoted to pepper research.


"Our students are U.S. citizens from first- or second-generation migrant families anywhere in the United States," said Danise Coon, assistant director of NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute. "The goal is to introduce these students with migrant backgrounds to the agricultural research process and to broaden their interest in scientific studies."

The 10 students hail from rural communities like Hatch and Columbus as well as the cities of El Paso and Los Angeles. The eight-week session runs June 7-July 31.

A $120,000 grant from the National Science Foundation funds the eight-week program called Assured, short for agricultural summer science research and development program. Participants are high school students entering college this fall, or university freshmen or sophomores.

During the summer session, students are paired with faculty members for one-on-one instruction, while Coon and graduate students in NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics help guide them. Students gain firsthand experience in plant breeding, mechanical havesting and variety development, as well as disease and insect control.

In addition, students can draw on NMSU's chile demonstration garden, one of the largest public chile gardens in the world. Once picked and processed, chile is New Mexico's most valuable vegetable, worth more than $200 million annually.

At the end of the summer session, students write a research paper, make an oral presentation and complete a scientific poster about their results. "Last summer's program gave two exceptional students the opportunity to get a job here in the agronomy and horticulture department working in research," Coon said.

NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute recently received an additional $19,000 from the National Science Foundation to employ two of this summer's students during the coming school year, she said.