A new Undergraduate Research Experience Pilot Program is launching at Fort Hays State University through the Research Environment Committee in conjunction with the Fort Hays Honor Society.
The program's main goal is to put faculty with students to give undergraduates experience in a desired field and to enrich their academic experience, especially in their first and second years. In addition, the research program will improve faculty and student relationships in all areas of research and scholarship, ranging from art to science.
In one of the first projects, rangeland ecologist Jordge LaFantasie, instructor of biological sciences at FHSU, heads "Mycorrihizal Infection Rate Response to Plant Stress in Northern and Southern Mixed Grass Prairie."
This project includes understanding plant root response to stress factors, including defoliation and drought. Student responsibilities in the project include excavating roots, staining them in the laboratory and using a microscope to inspect them and groups of fungi. The students can also learn how to operate a scanning electron microscope in order to photograph interesting fungal structures as well as for a research findings presentation.
LaFantasie's goal is to expand the research program beyond the FHSU campus.
"I hope that it grows into a larger research. The objectives eventually are for it to grow into a long-term research project with the University of Wyoming," said LaFantasie.
No qualifications are necessary; training will be provided for all aspects of the project. The project is likely to last at least two calendar years, with the most work during the fall semester, although there may be some work in the spring. Students will work no more than six hours per week.
"Qualifications are if they're interested in looking at fungal structures through a microscope," said LaFantasie.
One student is already involved, and LaFantasie hopes to find another.
"I'll be looking for another next year," said LaFantasie.