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Students benefit from undergraduate research

January 1, 2012

Students involved in a multi-year undergraduate research program at Central Wyoming College definitely recognize the value of their involvement.

Students of Professor Steve McAllister are participating in a study of West Nile Virus in Fremont County under an INBRE (Idea Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence) program. Other CWC science students are participating in the study of the hot springs near Thermopolis and in the collection of artifacts along the middle fork of the Sweetwater River for the institution’s Western American Studies (see related story on pages 2-3) program.

Kelly Niemeyer, who came to CWC in 2010 from Washington state, didn’t expect to have the opportunities when she enrolled at age 17. “It’s been really good for me,” she said. “I am blown away by the education I’m getting.”

“This is stuff we can’t learn in a classroom,” said Josh Graham, a second year student from Riverton. “We are dealing with stuff we wouldn’t actually learn in the classroom. It is great to have this experience.”

Seth Hosking, also a second year student from Riverton, said the knowledge he is obtaining from his participation in the research is “applicable to the real world. We are doing junior and senior level work as freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “It’s going to get us above and beyond.”

The research team, mostly made up of second-year students, has already attended multiple state and regional conferences to present their research to other students, professors and members of the scientific community. “People are amazed by the level of work we are doing,” Graham said, explaining other student presenters at these conferences are college juniors and seniors or graduate students.
“It’s not just the lab experience,” Hosking added. “It’s the networking.” Both he and Graham, who plan to continue their studies at UW, have already established relationships with professors and graduate students there.
CWC Professor Steve McAllister said the students are now raising funds to attend the national Centers of Biomedical Research (COBRE)-INBRE conference in Washington, D.C. this summer to present their findings on a national stage.

Josh Green, a sophomore who originally planned to study chemical engineering, said being involved in the research is causing him to pursue a career in pharmacology. “It’s going to pay off,” he said.

Niemeyer originally intended to study nursing or become a physician’s assistant but now that she has far exceeded her expectations she wants to go to medical school.

Jonathon McFall appreciates that his professors at CWC want to ensure he succeeds. He’s been told by instructors that when they see his grades slipping there will be an intervention. “That kind of attention you don’t get at a university,” he said.

As an undergraduate INBRE researcher, the students also have the ability to apply for transfer scholarships to keep them involved as juniors and seniors at the university level, McAllister said