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Small Colleges Experience Big-League Research

Imagine if students and professors at small colleges had access to the state-of-the-art instruments, research facilities, and faculty expertise available at a major research institution like the University of Iowa.

by University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine
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The University of Iowa's FUTURE in Biomedicine program develops research and learning partnerships with professors from Iowa colleges that do not offer doctoral programs.Photo courtesy of the University of IowaThat's exactly what happens for participants in the FUTURE (Fostering Undergraduate Talent - Uniting Research and Education) in Biomedicine Program run by the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Now entering its sixth year, this program places faculty and students from Iowa's primarily undergraduate institutions (PUI) with research faculty in the UI Carver College of Medicine for nine weeks during the summer. These collaborations are designed to evolve into long-term research and learning partnerships that strengthen undergraduate science education across the entire state.

Since its inception in 2009, the program has hosted 25 professors from 17 PUIs. Many of the program’s alums have developed ongoing and productive collaborations with their UI partners. The program has produced at least seven co-authored research papers and 35 presentations at scientific conferences, as well as three successful grant applications with three more currently in preparation.

Most important, the FUTURE Fellows also return to their home campuses ready to train their students in advanced lab techniques by including new material in their courses based on participation in the FUTURE program. They also are able to share samples, research tools, and access to the UI's advanced research resources, as well as provide the connections that could help their students pursue opportunities in graduate and medical education.

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Based on their experiences in the program, several undergraduates from past classes also have embarked on biomedical careers of their own, enrolling in graduate or medical school, or becoming research assistants or clinical technicians at the UI and other top research institutions.

This year's program, which started May 28, has participants from Coe College in Cedar Rapids; Loras College in Dubuque; Drake University in Des Moines; Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo; Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids; and Wartburg College in Waverly.

The fellows are chosen through a competitive application process and first-time fellows receive housing and a stipend. The UI host lab also receives up to $2,000 to defray the cost of research supplies. In addition, talented undergraduates from the PUIs also are selected to participate with their professors. The program is free for the undergraduate students; in general, the UI provides housing for the students and the student's home colleges provide research fellowships.

Funding for the program comes primarily from the UI Carver College of Medicine, with some support from the UI Office of the Provost through the Better Futures for Iowans initiative.

"The FUTURE program lets us share the unique resources of the UI Carver College of Medicine with our colleagues and students across Iowa," says Madeline Shea, UI professor of biochemistry and founding director of the FUTURE program. "The statewide network of scientists and science educators created by this program enhances the preparation of Iowa students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers in biomedical research or clinical practice."

Shea presented an overview of the program and highlighted its successes at the June 4-5 meeting of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa in Ames.

To learn more about this year's participants and the program, visit here.