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Project SMART Kicks Off 2011 Summer Institute

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
July 6, 2011

High school students participating in the 21st Project SMART (Science and Mathematics Achievement through Research Training) Summer Institute converged on campus Tuesday for the start of the four-week course in biotechnology and nanotechnology, space science, and marine and environmental science.

Project SMART challenges talented juniors and seniors in science and mathematics and gives them the opportunity to get involved in research with UNH scientists. This year’s institute is taking place July 5 through July 29.

The program was launched in 1991 at the initiative of then-New Hampshire Gov. and later U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg and UNH President Dale Nitzschke. During the first several years, students came exclusively from New Hampshire but more recently they have come from around the country. This year, 44 students represent 11 states. Five students are from Greece and seven are from Turkey.

Through lectures, discussions, laboratories, and field trips, students will receive a state-of-the-art perspective and an in-depth experience in the three areas of science. More than two dozen UNH faculty and guest speakers will provide information about their research and areas of expertise.

On Tuesday, Project SMART director Subash Minocha and faculty members provided an overview of the program to students and their parents.

The module of biotechnology and nanotechnology is led by Minocha and chemistry professor Glen Miller. Some of the topics students will explore include technologies of developing vaccines and more efficient drugs; cloning; genetics and genetic engineering; stem cell research; in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood, and agricultural biotechnology.

“A lot of questions are being raised in these areas,” Minocha said. “For example, with reproductive technology, the question is being raised as to who is the parent? Students will discuss these issues.”

In the marine and environmental science module, headed up by Jim Haney, chair of the biological sciences department, and Barry Rock, professor of natural resources, students will, among other things, investigate the health of New Hampshire lakes and streams, looking at toxic bacteria, collecting organisms to see if they can predict rainfall, testing stream insects to see if the are indicators of water quality, and monitor forest vegetation.

During the four weeks, students will take a trip to Mt. Washington, the Isles of Shoals Marine Lab and several lakes and ponds.

“We’ll be looking at organisms that have very, very big implications,” Haney said.

The space science module is led by research professor Chuck Smith and Roy Torbert, director of the Space Science Center. It consists of four components: a basic college physics lecture series; advanced lectures on space physics; research topics assigned to teams of two students who work closely with members of the faculty, and a team project. 

“Students will conduct original research,” Smith said. “They’ll be given questions to work on that we don’t have the answers to.”

The module ends with a presentation by the students to the faculty and parents on graduation day where the students present the results of their research. 

Financial support for Project SMART is provided by the Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, the Dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, the N.H. Space Grant Consortium, the NSF-NH EPSCoR Grant, and N.H. Sea Grant program. The USDA (Civil Rights Diversity Special Funds) and the Liberty Mutual Foundation have provided grants for increasing diversity in the program, with particular focus on minorities and under-represented groups. Donations of cash and lab supplies, and discounts on supplies and equipment from several biotechnology companies also provide assistance to the program.

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