Katie Yost, a senior in biological sciences from Dover, Del., discusses her project to assess the insect biodiversity in a restored wetland versus a meadow filled with native plants with Tom Sims, deputy dean of agriculture and natural resources.

Scholars showcase research

University Summer Scholars tackle diverse range of topics

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12:43 p.m., May 4, 2011--Sweep net in hand, Katie Yost wants to find out how well a restored wetland previously rife with invasive reed canary grass near Route 72 in Newark, Del., supports insect biodiversity compared to a meadow filled with native plants. 

Yost, a University of Delaware senior in biological sciences from Dover, Del., is one of 116 UD Summer Scholars who showcased their research at the Scholars Poster Session on April 22 in the Trabant University Center. 

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“This research project provided me with lots of new knowledge, skills and hands-on experience that I could not have gotten inside a classroom,” says Yost, who used a sweep net, which resembles a butterfly net but with a sturdier material for its collecting bag, to catch beetles, tiny flies, spiders, grasshoppers and other insects for examination and counting at the two sites. 

Along the way, Yost says she discovered a lot about insects — after all, she collected 13,000 of them — as well as about taxonomy, data analysis and research processes. She plans to continue the research this summer.

Students in UD’s Summer Scholars Program work on their projects full-time for 10 weeks in the summer and continue on to complete three credits of research the following academic year. Each scholar is sponsored by a faculty member, who guides the student’s efforts to understand and engage in research. 

The latest crop of scholars tackled topics as diverse as potential prostate cancer therapeutics to enzyme-enhanced microbial fuel cells. They presented their work, just as faculty scientists do at national meetings, in scientific posters highlighting their research question, methods and results.

The number of student presenters rose by 20 percent this year compared to 2010, according to Meg Meiman, coordinator of undergraduate research.

“We also are beginning to see more cross-over from a disciplinary standpoint, with a branching out to involve the humanities and social sciences in projects, and a marked increase — on the part of students and faculty — in issues of sustainability,” she says. 

Two of the Delaware Water Resources Center presenters, both humanities majors — Kristen Berry in English and Aidan Galasso in history — worked with faculty in communications and political science on education and outreach for the Delaware Wetlands project, and on an analysis of the impact of marcellus shale development on water resource development in Pennsylvania, according to Meiman.

“The students who complete undergraduate research projects exemplify the UD Path to Prominence,” stated Lynnette Overby, faculty director of undergraduate research. “We were honored to have Burnaby Munson, C. Eugene Bennett Chair of Chemistry at UD, present the opening remarks at the event. As a long-time supporter and mentor of undergraduate research at the University, he provided just the right balance of expressions of congratulations and the need for realistic expectations.”

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photos by Duane Perry

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