Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:15 PM


SMAGLIK, Suzanne M., Central Wyoming College, 2660 Peck Ave, Riverton, WY 82501,

Undergraduate research opportunities in science have been supported at Central Wyoming College (CWC) since 2004. Sustainability of our research programs rely on external funding from the ESPCoR (NSF), Wyoming Space Grant Consortium (WSGC/NASA), INBRE (NIH), and CCURI (NSF), and offer a broad range of field and lab experiences. The CCURI (Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative) mission is to integrate undergraduate research experiences into the first- or second-year lab courses, inspiring them to learn. CWC has established a graduation requirement that all students have co-curricular experiences in two of three areas: cultural, service or professional. We look forward to the evolution of our research program and are honored to serve as a model for implementing the new curriculum across the campus.

Challenges in mentoring first-year students through the process of doing science are multifaceted. First, is getting the students to recognize the importance of keeping detailed lab and field notebooks. They believe that they’ll remember everything rather than writing it down, and do not realize that their notes need to lead those who follow them. A second challenge is obtaining data of a quality that can be used for publication. In a two-year institution the procedures are often completed by many different (inexperienced) hands, leading to more uncertainty in the data than is acceptable in a professional setting. A third challenge is helping them understand that there is more than just fun in research. After a hard day in the field or lab, there is still plenty of not-so-fun work left to do. And then, just when we get them trained, they are ready to move on to their next experience and we need to begin training new students.

With funding for faculty release time from CCURI, we are designing a Scientific Process and Writing course that will be required of our science majors. Notebook maintenance will be emphasized along with data quality and data interpretation. By integrating both the hands-on experience and the support course, along with community building, we are confident that our students will have the competence to continue their goals as they progress through their careers. We are proud to offer them this opportunity.