UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
The UW-River Falls Biology Department offers numerous opportunities for students to participate in research, starting the first semester of freshman year. The University also supports undergraduate research by offering Undergraduate Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activity (URSCA) Grants.
At the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, freshman biology students are able to participate in one of two research projects - The SEA-PHAGE Research Initiative, and the Small World Initiative Research Programs.
“The program allows students to take part in meaningful research from day one when they step on campus,” said Tricia Davis, interim dean of UWRF’s College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a really unique opportunity for incoming freshmen to hit the ground running in terms of research.”
Biology students at UW-River Falls have been participating in the Science Education Alliance (SEA) Phage Research Initiative since 2010. Sponsored by the Howard Huges Medical Institue (HHMI), this project creates hands-on research opportunities for first year students. It is part of a national experiment to improve undergraduate biology education.
During the two semester course, students isolate bacterial viruses (phage) from local soil, prepare the virus DNA for sequencing, annotate and compare the sequenced genome, and collaborate with other institutions in the SEA network. Any freshman biology or biotechnology major who is not taking a remedial course during their first semester may enroll in the HHMI course until the courses are filled.
The University of Wisconsin-River Falls joined 170 partner institutions from 12 nations worldwide this fall, 2018, as part of the Small World Initiative (SWI) research program. SWI is an international collaboration harnessing the power of student researchers around the world to discover new antibiotics from soil microorganisms, helping address the worldwide health crisis of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
“This is a very exciting time for our biology department,” said Karen Klyczek, biology professor. “[The SWI program] will give more biology students the opportunity to make authentic contributions to science during their first year at UWRF.”
“I’m really excited about bringing this program to our campus and the authentic research opportunities it will provide our freshman research initiative,” said Biology Department Chair Fred Bonilla. “The opportunity for community involvement, statewide and national collaborations, and contributions to the scientific community are very exciting. We’ve seen over the past few years offering phage and bee programs that the skills and interest students develop in scientific inquiry carry on through their curriculum here with us and beyond.”
The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is dedicated to providing opportunities and resources that foster high-quality student-faculty collaborative projects and enhance student development. The URSCA Office opened in spring 2013 with the mission to support and promote the culture of undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity across campus. URSCA offers grants for travel and course-redesign as well as undergraduate stipends and expenses. Numerous biology students are awarded grants for research or travel each year. Visit the URSCA website for more information or to apply.
In March of 2015, UWRF biology researchers received funding from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to test a honey bee management strategy to increase the number of non-migratory Wisconsin beekeepers. For two years, researchers and students evaluated the overwintering capabilities of small beehives called nucleus colonies or "nucs."
One of the most important aspects of this project was student involvement and training. UW-River Falls offerd a unique honeybee research course for freshman undergraduates. Students selected from that course expanded their training by working on the project throughout the summer where they helped collect hive data, learned bee management procedures, worked with research collaborators from other departments and institutions and interacted with Wisconsin growers such as cranberry producers.