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Over 5,000 undergrads participating in research projects at CSU

More than $300 million is raised annually for Colorado State University research in infectious disease, atmospheric science and biomedical technology.

There are currently over 5,000 undergraduates participating in research, according to Mark Brown, assistant Clinical Sciences professor and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Artistry.  

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“Educational research shows that students who are engaged in faculty-mentored research tend to have higher academic performance, higher rates of retention, and higher rates of admission to graduate programs and professional schools,” Brown wrote in an email to the Collegian.

There are many formal applications students can apply to for research positions, but it is most common to contact a professor who is doing research, according to Brown.

One of the many application-based research options at CSU is called the Skills for Undergraduate Participation in Ecological Research Program, or SUPER. The program is designed for students with an interest in ecological research and is completed over the academic year. It counts as 4 to 6 credits, and students can earn between 45 and 90 hours of laboratory or field experience.

For junior biology major Aja Mattise-Lorenzen, her research journey started by simply getting an email contact from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Artistry. She started helping graduate students with research on bee behavior in May 2015.

“(The professor) emailed back and said, ‘When could you come in for an interview?'” Mattise-Lorenzen said. “Just like that, I was into the bee lab.”

Mattise-Lorenzon did a variety of different things over the summer, such as rearranging bee hives, catching bees and putting tags and color spots on baby bees. She is currently doing data analysis on how much bees eat every day.

“The best thing about it is that I do different things, because it allows me to ask a lot more questions and formulate my own research,” Mattise-Lorenzen said.

From working in the lab, Mattise-Lorenzen has defined her career goals.

“Now I am completely sold that I want to study animal behavior,” Mattise-Lorenzen said. “Before working in this lab too, I was like, ‘I don’t really like insects, entomology isn’t my thing,’ but now, insects are awesome. Now, I have been persuaded that I should be an entomologist and study bugs.”

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Often research will take place in a group, according to Kaye Holman, internship coordinator for Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability.

“That undergraduate is really getting and experience of not only the specific focus of the research, but additionally, that collaborative aspect of doing the work with others. It’s a team effort,” Holman said.

In the lab, Mattise-Lorenzen works collaboratively with graduate students and professors.

“After working in the lab, I see now that everything is a team effort,” Lorenzen said. “Very little science can be done without collaboration. So I ask grad students questions, they ask me questions, the grad students ask our professor in the lab. It’s a full team effort — everyone’s opinions are respected, no matter what your status is.”

Stacy Lynn, a research scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, is overseeing a grant through the National Science Foundation, allowing five undergraduates to have a research-intensive experience in dry lands ecology over the next three years. The students will spend a year assigned with Lynn, an experience that will include five weeks in Kenya over the summer.

“I think that CSU’s heritage as a land-grant institution, the fact that we are here to serve Colorado, that this is helping students connect to their career pathways,” Holman said. “But, it also provides a real, tangible service to Colorado, to the nation and to the world, because we are contributing to research, advancing the overall mission of CSU.”

Collegian Reporter Seth Bodine can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @sbodine120.

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