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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Students To Learn About Laboratory Research Through NMSU Summer Mentor Program

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University researchers will introduce 10 minority high school students to opportunities in scientific research fields through a summer mentoring program funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The program also offers two science teachers the chance to learn the latest research techniques, so they can incorporate the information in their classrooms, said Mary O'Connell, program coordinator and a professor with NMSU's agronomy and horticulture department.

"A lot of people think science is really difficult," O'Connell said. "This program works to humanize science by showing students what we do everyday in our laboratories."

Another goal of the program is to increase science literacy in the community, O'Connell said.

"The Las Cruces area high school teachers, counselors and principals, who encourage the students to apply, are key ingredients to our success," she said.

The grant provides $123,000 to support the program for the next three summers. Students are paid about $1,800 each, while the teachers receive about $5,000 for participating. This NIH grant program replaces a similar one that NMSU has been involved with for 11 years.

"Besides being a good experience, it's a great job for the students," O'Connell said. "For the teachers, it's a time to get rejuvenated and excited about science."

From June until the beginning of August, students and teachers work with NMSU scientists in laboratory research areas such as plant genetics, microbiology, biochemistry, plant tissue culture and weed science.

Fabian Rodriguez, an NMSU junior working on a double major in agronomy and horticulture, was teamed with NMSU weed scientists, entomologists and horticulturists when he took part in the previous program during the summers of 1991 and 1992. For one project, he studied what type of snakeweed red-legged grasshoppers prefer.

"The program is a very good opportunity," Rodriguez said. "When I got to NMSU, I was one step ahead, because I had learned what science laboratories are like.11

He said the experience he gained in the program as a high school student also helped him land his current job working with plant genetics.

Applications for the program are available from science teachers and counselors at the local schools or by contacting O'Connell at 646-5172 or the program at 646-2424. Completed applications are due April 21 for summer 1995 appointments, and the awards will be made the week of May 8.