Research Experiences for Community College Students

Research tools

For some Front Range Community College students, the answer to the “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” question would be, “I was involved in research, and it was fun!”

Not only fun, but eye-opening to the research and careers that could be ahead of them.

Undergraduate Research Experiences

The students took part in a number of programs for community college students. These programs are referred to generically as Undergraduate Research Experiences. Not that long ago, these were open to college juniors and seniors. More recently, community college students have been invited – and proven to be well worth the investment.

FRCC students participated this summer in Bridges to Baccalaureate, Geo-Launchpad, and the Research Experience for Community College Students in Critical Zone Science (RECCS). With a lot of students to highlight, this post will focus on Bridges to Baccalaureate. Another post will look at the other two programs.

Bridges to Baccalaureate

This program is a program at the Larimer Campus that identifies and helps students transfer to Colorado State University and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical or behavioral sciences. B2B is a National Institutes of Health-funded grant to CSU. For FRCC transfer students, a CSU bachelor’s degree could lead to graduate school and/or a career in science or research.

On their B2B summer, the students work in CSU research labs, and it is in the research lab that they can find their future.

Before introducing the students, full disclosure: I have no idea what these students did. Sure, I understand what Legos® are because I’ve stepped on enough of them, but how they become a psychology experiment, that and what the other students did is over my head.

Student researchers

Laura Isenhour

Laura Isenhour

Chris Goheen

Chris Goheen

Anita Bancroft

Anita Bancroft

Jules Skoda

Jules Skoda

Luke Hoskovec

Luke Hoskovec

Madison Engstrom

Madison Engstrom

Kevin Nurzynski-Loth

Kevin Nurzynski-Loth

Eric Botherton

Eric Botherton

Bree Wenck

Bree Wenck

Jack Miera

Jack Miera

Laura Isenhour worked in a lab with Colby Evans and Dr. Justin Sambur in the Department of Chemistry. She found out in her B2B experience “helped me specify what field I want to go in.” She was excited about studying materials chemistry, a combination of physics and chemistry.

Chris Goheen will study psychology. His research project used Legos® (that I understand) to gain an understanding of meaning as it relates to creative tasks in work. He worked with Analeigh Dao, Jessica Morse, and Dr. Michael F. Steger. His summer “brought my research experiences up to speed. It made my transfer smooth.” Here’s more about Chris — and Bridges to Baccalaureate.

Anita Bancroft will study nutrition at CSU, and her project with Dr. Dan J. Graham and others in the Graham Behavioral Medicine Lab considered whether higher physical activity levels predict better diet quality in adolescents. “It opened my eyes to the possibilities in the nutrition field,” she said.

Jules Skoda worked to culture an antibody that could someday help fight tuberculosis. She worked with Joanie Ryan, Dr. Carolina Mehaffy, and Dr. Karen Dobos in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. “The program taught me a lot. I learned about science and leadership, what it takes to be a good teacher and a good student.”

Luke Hoskovec found the experience “a great opportunity to help figure out what I want to study.” In his case – health and exercise science. His research with Amanda Bell and Dr. Christopher Bell was on the effects of restricting blood flow in non-exercising muscles (such as arms) on the power output (of leg muscles) during spring interval training.

Madison Engstrom’s research with Dr. Takamitsu Kato and Dr. Del Leary at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital examined uneven dose distribution in low-energy electron beam radiation. Her experience in a lab “showed me the more professional side and what is done in the real world.” Her critical thinking skills improved, and she found her career interest in radiation oncology.

Kevin Nurzynski-Loth found the experience “meant the world to me. It was the best experience in my life.” His research involved using lasers and an inverted spinning disk microscope. His mentors were Dr. Jeffrey Hansen, Mark Connolly, and Charles McDonald in the Department of  Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Eric Botherton found that “hard work pays off. It showed that what I did at FRCC mattered.” His study with Trey Murschell and Dr. Delphine Farmer in the Department of Chemistry focused on the OH radical in the atmosphere.

Bree Wenck has come a long way from her time studying for a GED to an Associate of Science degree and transfer to CSU. “I proved I could do this. I started at the bottom and worked hard.” She worked on a genetics-related research project with Travis J. Sanders, Julie Walker, Olivia Luyties and Dr. Thomas J. Santangelo in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Jack Miera worked a project involving metal organic frameworks, which are metal ions attached to organic molecules. His mentors in the Department of Chemistry were Heather Rubin and Dr. Melissa Reynolds. “It was a fantastic summer. I felt the lab was a great fit.” He will study chemistry and biological engineering at CSU.

Faculty support

A program like Bridges to Baccalaureate needs faculty support from FRCC and CSU. Thanks to Beverly Byer, John Mandley and Heidi Smith at FRCC, and to Paul Laybourn and Ernie Chavez at CSU, for their oversight and commitment to build this bridge a baccalaureate degree for FRCC students.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College.