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University of Iowa News Release


June 19, 2007

Photos: (top, right) Valerie Letukas of Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa., talks to fellow student Michael Barton of High Point University in High Point, N.C. and Aleeza Roth (bottom, left) of University of Wisconsin-Madison, attends a seminar

UI Offers A Different Kind Of 'Summer Camp'

This summer, instead of donning flip-flops and heading for the beach, one group of inquisitive undergraduates will be slipping on lab coats and heading for the bench -- a research bench in a University of Iowa laboratory.

Eleven undergraduate students from around the country are participating in the Summer Microbiology Undergraduate Research Program hosted by the Department of Microbiology at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

The majority of the program participants come from four-year colleges that do not offer advanced degrees or opportunities for research. Under the guidance of UI microbiology faculty members, the students conduct experiments to probe the basic biology of bacteria and viruses.

"Although I do have research experiences, this is the only one where I get to work directly with a professor," said Aleeza Roth, a junior at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The UI program aims to encourage bright students who have an interest in science to pursue a research career and to give those students the skills they need to succeed.

"By providing a solid basic research experience, the program helps these students be competitive for admission to research graduate programs," said David Weiss, Ph.D., UI associate professor of microbiology and program director.

Many aspects of the program, including the chance to design, conduct and analyze their own experiments and present and discuss their results, help the students consider graduate school.

"The hands-on experiences are the first taste of what graduate school might be like and what I'll be getting myself into," said Valerie Letukas, a junior at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa.

"Most of us are considering graduate school, but many of us don't come from big universities. I for one didn't understand how graduate research labs worked," said Amanda Lewis, a junior from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. "This program will be helpful in deciding on graduate school."

Over the last six years, 68 students from 22 states and Puerto Rico have gone through the program. Of these, 70 percent were female, and 37 percent were underrepresented minorities.

The program, established in 1990, recently received a three-year $180,086 grant renewal from the National Science Foundation. Weiss and Linda McCarter, Ph.D., UI associate professor of microbiology, are co-principal investigators of the training grant.

In addition to their lab work, the students also attend lectures to broaden their understanding of microbiology and learn about graduate school, career options and responsible conduct of research. At the end of the nine-week program, which runs from May 29 to July 28, students prepare written reports describing their projects and results and participate in a campus-wide summer program poster session.

The microbiology program is one of nine summer research programs offered by the UI for undergraduate and/or high school students. Information about all the programs can be found online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917