A Night of Presentation and Potential

The titles “Kinematics of Slope-Style Skiing,” “Dead Men Do Tell Tales” and “The Effect of Licorice Root on Clinically Important Bacteria” preview the collection of student research projects presented at the McNairs Scholars Poster Symposium, on Dec. 3.

Designed to assist underrepresented minorities in pursuance of graduate school, the McNair Scholars program (MSP) provides academic support, funding for research projects and the opportunity to gain experience in research, equipping them for success in earning Ph.D.’s.

One important preparatory aspect of the program is to provide opportunities for participants to share their research at forums and national McNair research conferences. “You’re not just doing the research, but presenting it,” said James Cwick, “which is a key component.” Cwick, a McNair scholar and microbiology major, presented his study of licorice extract on antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The diversity of projects demonstrates the wide variety of interests, as students in the program range from animal science to art history majors.

The McNair Scholars Program was introduced four years ago at MSU, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Eligible students can be those first in their families to pursue post-secondary education, represent a minority or come from low-income backgrounds. Shelly Hogan, the current director of MSP, has been working with the program since 2009. “I read a notice on MSU’s homepage about this newly funded program,” Hogan said, “and immediately knew I wanted to apply.” Hogan credited Dr. Greg Young, the principle investigator of the project, for his initiative and effort. “The program would not be here today if it was not for Dr. Young’s genuine support and appreciation of the importance of undergraduate scholarly research at MSU,” Hogan stated.

McNair Scholars are matched with a faculty partner throughout the research period. Melissa Emery, a chemistry education major, has been in the program since last March, partnered with Dr. Charles McLaughlin in the Chemistry Department. Emery presented her research project titled, “Student Perceptions Toward a TEAL Approach to Enhance Chemistry Lectures” at the symposium. She credited McLaughlin for both his support and friendship. “Working with Dr. Mac is awesome,” she said, “He’s a great mentor and he’s a great friend. I really like having that relationship.” Additionally, Emery noted she appreciates the program for its opportunities. “This (research) is something I never would have done if I didn’t join the program,” she said, adding that her major requires research, but participation in MSP allowed her to pursue it sooner.

Sydney Jaramillo, an english literature major, studied display elements in museums, and their results in attracting visitors. In “The Making of an Effective Visitor-Oriented Museum,” Jaramillo collaborated with Dr. David Swingle to pursue her research. Jaramillo developed a comprehensive outline that detailed successful museum traits, and how they affect visitors. The fundamental purpose behind MSP, preparing students for graduate school, is an aspect Jaramillo appreciates. “It really helps students who may not feel they can go to graduate school,” she stated, “It provides them with that opportunity so that they can do research, put in on their curriculum vitae, and get into great graduate schools.” She continued saying evaluators “see that you’ve put forth initiative.”

The scholars program is important to Hogan because it encourages students who might not otherwise have opportunity, preparation or support. “This program can transform lives.” Hogan stated, “It not only gives underrepresented students much needed research exposure, [and] a plethora of graduate school preparatory material, but also confidence that they can be successful and excel in graduate school.”

The highlight of her work with MSP, Hogan said, is the students’ attitudes: “They are talented, hard-working and motivated students with unwavering perseverance.” Hogan noted, “They are conducting research that they truly are passionate about.”