Summer program acquaints students to graduate-level research, K-State


Students from widespread universities came to K-State this summer for hands-on research experiences as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

Carol Shanklin, acting dean of graduate school, is the coordinator for the program that attracts many undergraduate applications each summer.

“It is really designed for non-K-State students, but in the past we’ve had maybe one,” she said. “It’s a recruiting effort to bring students to the graduate program here.”

Shanklin said about 15 students participate in the summer program that lasts nine weeks.

She said the program’s intent is to recruit top-quality students.

“Basically, it started 13 years ago with the intent of helping recruit students into the science disciplines to go to graduate school and to provide them with research experience,” she said.

This summer, students from universities in the United States and Puerto Rico lived in the residence halls while working on separate research projects with K-State mentors, she said.

Ruth Welti, professor of biology, supervised Brittanie Atkinson, a student who studies at Langston University in Langston, Okla.

Welti said Atkinson worked to develop a method to identify metabolites, which are found in plants.

“The reason for developing this method is so that we can measure how the metabolites change when the plants encounter environmental changes, such as changes in carbon dioxide levels,” Welti said.

She said Atkinson had the chance to experience biological research.

“She is interested in a medical career,” Welti said. “It’s very helpful to physicians to have knowledge of the research process, as so many medical advances depend on that process.”

James Shanteau, university distinguished professor of psychology, said he supervised a student this summer and has been involved with the program in the past.

“It’s something I’ve done for a number of years, and it’s always worked out very well,” Shanteau said.

He said Kristen Fernandez, a student at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, worked with Mitch Ricketts, a graduate student in psychology, on his dissertation.

Fernandez’s project was “Decision making with everyday products,” for the two months she was at K-State during the summer.

Shanteau said the Department of Psychology chose the topic in advance and contacted Fernandez.

“She was quite interested so we mutually agreed on this particular project,” he said.

Shanteau said though Fernandez is finished with the summer program, she is considering follow-up research in Puerto Rico.

He said some students decide to attend K-State for graduate research after participating in the summer program, while others go in different directions.

“It’s an experience that doesn’t always bring them here, but it does show them what graduate school is like,” he said.

Shanklin said Michael Hinkin, graduate student in psychology, was the coordinator for this summer’s program.

“His goal was to make sure they have, in addition to their mentors, a positive experience at K-State,” she said.

Shanklin said the graduate school sends information about the program to institutions where the program’s students have come from in the past, as well as institutions that have students greatly interested in K-State.

She said the program is only open to U.S. residents who are underrepresented like minority or first-year college students.

Grants for the program come from the National Science Foundation, which provides funding for three programs: grassland ecology and division of biology, mathematics and physics, she said.

Shanklin said the program provides students with a stipend of $2,500, room and board, and $300 for travel.