CSU–Pueblo earns funding for Merck/AAAS Research Program

Colorado State University-Pueblo will be able to advance its undergraduate research training as one of 14 colleges and universities selected for awards from the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program. Sponsored by the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the award provides up to $60,000, paid over three years, for use by the biology and chemistry departments at the recipient institution.

At CSU-Pueblo, the grant will fund four students per year to perform summer research. The grant will cover student stipends, supplies, as well as travel assistance for them to present the results of their research at national venues. The grant will also fund bi-monthly meetings of the students and their mentors during the summer. These meetings will give students additional training in scientific writing, GRE preparation, safety training and ethics, as well as other important topics.

Significant criteria in the selection process included the quality of the projects proposed and the faculty involved as well as the collaborative nature of the research between both chemistry and biology departments. The students selected will work on an interdisciplinary project with two faculty mentors, one from each department.

The five projects include testing the uptake of harmful chemicals from waste fertilizer into human food crops, the development of microorganisms that can turn biofuels waste into useful organic compounds such as ethanol, the optimization of a procedure for isolating cellulase from fungus as a cheap source of this important enzyme, the isolation of flavenoids from the Russian Olive tree to see how these might be aiding the symbiotic relationship it has with its nitrogen-fixing soil bacterium, and the development of copper-sensitive fluorescent indicators to use in studying cellular disease mechanisms such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

The faculty and projects in the grant proposal are listed below:

1. Dr. David Lehmpuhl (Chemistry) and Dr. Brian Vandenheuvel (Biology)
Elucidation of Gene Expression Changes in Frankia after Exposure to Flavonoids Isolated from Host Plant Root Exhudates

2. Dr. Mel Druelinger (Chemistry) and Dr, Jeff Smith (Biology)
Synthesis and Application of Copper Selective Fluorescent Indicators as Sensors in Bioimaging Studies of Disease Mechanisms

3. Dr. Chad Kinney (Chemistry) and Dr. Brian Vandenheuvel (Biology)
Human Pharmaceuticals Uptake in Crop Plants

4. Dr. David Dillon (Chemistry) and Dr. Dan Caprioglio (Biology)
Use of Chemostat Selection for Isolation of Microbes that Carry Out Biocatalysis on Biofuel Waste Streams to Develop Value-Added Products
Optimization of Cellulase Production of Penicillium Fellutanum

5. Dr. Sandra Bonetti (Chemistry) and Dr. Dan Caprioglio (Biology)

The Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program is a competitive program available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Up to 15 awards are made annually. Launched in 2000 as a national competition, the 10-year, $9 million initiative is funded by MISE and administered by AAAS. The program is open to institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico that offer an American Chemical Society-approved program in chemistry and confer 10 or fewer graduate degrees annually in biology and chemistry combined. Funding supports research stipends for undergraduate students and ancillary programs that encourage research collaborations between biology and chemistry departments.

Other recipients included: Boise State University, Boise, Idaho; Claflin University, Orangeburg, S.C.; Francis Marion University, Florence, S.C.; Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, Minn.; Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pa.; Muhlenberg University, Allentown, Pa.; North Carolina A&T University, Greensboro, N.C.; Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Mich.; Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y.; Roger Williams University, Bristol, R.I.; Union College, Schenectady, N.Y.; University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.; University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Okla.

For more information about the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program, visit http://www.merckaaasusrp.org.

Colorado State University - Pueblo is a regional, comprehensive university emphasizing professional, career-oriented, and applied programs. Displaying excellence in teaching, celebrating diversity, and engaging in service and outreach, CSU-Pueblo is distinguished by access, opportunity, and the overall quality of services provided to its students.