The McNair Scholar's Program Builds Experience Beyond the Classroom
By working one on one with faculty mentors, McNair Scholar researchers at UND start on their path to develop independent research careers. In 2011, Ms. Leslie Yellow Hammer joined the McNair Scholars program to learn more about research in biology. She was keenly aware that she wanted not only to be part of the scientific process, but to direct it. She joined Dr. Yurkonis' Grassland Ecology Lab in fall 2011, and is now directing her second independent research project on plant-insect interactions.The main focus of the McNair program is to help undergraduate students prepare for graduate-level research by providing them opportunities to develop as independent researchers outside of the classroom. As part of this program, Ms. Yellow Hammer has designed her own experiments, collected and analyzed her own data, and disseminated her results at regional and national conferences. She has gained field and lab skills working with plants, insects, and soil biota, and has had the opportunity to interact with multiple faculty and graduate student mentors at UND. The McNair experience helps students to develop skills in conducting research, but also in helping others to build their scientific awareness. Ms. Yellow Hammer has mentored several students within the McNair and US MASTERS programs as they have pursued their own research projects within the lab. In this process she has found that she truly enjoys helping others learn more about research. These collective opportunities to understand the research process and how to broadly influence society with her research have helped prepare Ms. Yellow Hammer for the next stage of her career. Ms. Yellow Hammer recently submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship program to support her proposed cutting-edge graduate research project on plant-soil interactions and will be applying to graduate school this fall. The McNair Scholars program provides a strong foundation of mentoring and skill-building opportunities for students to move forward with the next stages of their careers as independent researchers.