First-year rural students learn research through special UI program

Scott Shaw, associate professor in the University of Iowa Department of Chemistry, wanted to minimize that learning curve for select incoming students at the UI by creating the Rural Scholars program. The initiative, beginning its fifth year this fall, is for rural Iowa students who have been accepted to the UI and live in communities not located near an in-state research institution. The idea, Shaw says, is to expose rural students to research the moment they step on campus and thus reduce, if not eliminate, the challenge of learning about and benefiting from a research setting.

The most recent group of Rural Scholars completed its project, which compared the costs of creating various blends of ethanol fuel with the cost of producing unleaded gasoline. That group included -Evangeline Holyoake and Erick Fadness from Decorah, Iowa, and Camryn Norton from Pella, Iowa-spent the academic year designing its project, performing experiments, and gathering results that they presented in a poster session at the ICRU research fair in May.

The students say they knew next to nothing about research before becoming Rural Scholars. The experience was eye opening, they say, highlighted by weekly meetings with Shaw and frequent interactions with graduate students in Shaw's lab, who introduced them to lab equipment, practices, and other facets of a successful research enterprise.

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