State EPSCoR: Summer Research Program - Dr. Rimmer. Collaborative Research in Biogeochemical Systems: Creating Research Mentorship Teams

  • Connolly, John (PI)
  • Dos Santos Carmo, Ana (CoI)
  • Rimmer, S (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Project Summary Within the Department of Geological Sciences we have recently established a group of faculty and students with research interests in biogeochemistry (Biogeochemical Systems Group - BSG), with a special emphasis on carbon and nutrient cycling in ancient and modem sediments. In particular, key projects in our research program investigate the controls on organic carbon preservation in black shales, applying the BSG expertise in clay mineralogy, organic petrology, organic and inorganic geochemistry, and stable isotopes. We have developed a "team approach" with graduate students working on independent but related projects, with undergraduates learning lab protocols as they assist the graduate students and develop their own projects, and with faculty working closely with both graduate and undergraduate students. Many of the students involved in the project are female, an underrepresented group in our field, and we see exceptional synergy arising from this team approach. As educators, we strive to provide a very positive first research experience to undergraduate students in general and women in panicular, by giving them the opponunity to interact with other women who are at various stages of their careers (i.e., graduate students, and junior and senior faculty), thus encouraging them to continue on to a graduate program. In the past, the PI (Rimmer) has had great success with this mentorship model, with students producing publishable data and continuing on to graduate programs (see section C). The primary focus of the PI's effons has been to engage women in research early in their college careers, providing them with the qualifications and research skills necessary for successful graduate work. This year, the PI would like to expand this pilot program to include additional students and faculty. The team will consist of two female faculty from UK, a Research I institution, and one female faculty from NKU, an undergraduate institution, along with two undergraduates (one female student from UK and one male student from NKU), and two female graduate students (both from UK). This network of mentors will connect senior and junior faculty, and students at UK and NKU. While under the guidance of the faculty, the graduate students will have the opportunity to develop their own supervisory skills by acting as laboratory team leaders and assisting with the training of the undergraduate students. The PI has experimented with this approach this spring, which has proven to be successful in stimulating the students as they have taken more ownership of their projects. The long-term goal of these efforts is to increase the number of female undergraduates who continue on to graduate schools and possibly contribute to our own recruitment of female graduate students here at UK. We believe that the alliance between UK and undergraduate institutions such as NKU now and in the future will help us fulfill this goal by allowing us to access a larger pool of undergraduate students. We also think it is important to build a culture of collegiality and mentorship among senior and junior women faculty in the sciences, so that the junior facuIty can be successful mentors and role models for other women in the future. This is particularly important if the percentage of advanced degrees in geology awarded to women is to increase. While 36.9% of the geosdence degrees awarded nationally have gone to women, only 25% of Ph.D.s have been awarded to women candidates. The percentages are particularly low here at UK where on average women have received only 15% of the Bachelor's degrees, 20% of the master's degrees, and 5% of the Ph.D. awarded in geology (i.e., in the last 10 years, only one of the 18 Ph.D.s was awarded to a woman).
Effective start/end date5/1/0411/30/04


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