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By Susan Carroll
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 26, 1998

Fair showcases students' lab work

Participants in UA's ninth-annual Undergraduate Biology Research Program Conference cast aside their lab coats Saturday morning to present the results of faculty-aided research.

"It's a cumulating event," said biochemistry senior David Teeple. "It's nice to see everything laid out before you."

Students' projects ranged from searching for shellfish parasites to seeking out a hyperactive gene in human DNA. Teeple's project presented two years of research on the relationship between plant excretions and temperature.

"I was up all last night working on it," Teeple said of his colorful poster board, one of 75 projects showcased at University of Arizona's Life Sciences South Building.

The Undergraduate Biology Research Program was designed to introduce students to lab work and excite them about the research process, UBRP Director Carol Bender said.

Biochemistry Professor Michael Wells founded UBRP in 1988. The program, which began with 13 faculty members and 19 students, now boasts 223 faculty members and 140 undergraduates.

"Every now and again, you do something good," Wells said. "I think this is the best undergraduate research program in the nation."

The high faculty-to-student ratio is an indication of its success, he said.

"The number of faculty wanting students went up and stayed up," Wells said. "The program significantly improved teaching."

Half of the students' $5.50 to $6 per hour salaries for the projects comes from faculty grants. The other half is paid for by various government and private science institutions, Bender said.

Biochemistry senior Gretchen Heinze worked to synthesize natural products in a laboratory.

"It was frustrating at times, but it is also very rewarding when it works," Heinze said.

"We are looking at how we can abstract from biology certain rules and then explore them," said Jack Strom, a molecular and cellular biology senior.

UBRP has evolved to include elementary school and minority students from Tucson and New Mexico.

"The model worked so well that we adopted it for other populations," Bender said.

Alongside undergraduates, elementary school students presented their own research Saturday.

Patricia Weaver, a teacher at Robins Elementary School, 3939 N. Magnetite Lane, based her semester's curriculum around the Manduca worm. A class from Vesey Elementary School, 5005 S. Butts Road, studied grasshoppers' eating patterns, body parts and habit at.

"This is the best hands-on program ever," said Linda Snead, a fourth-grade teacher and seven-year program participant. "The kids are turned on to science."

"I thought it was really fun," said Cyndi Roberts, a 9-year-old student in Sneads' class.

Students from Diné Community College in New Mexico also presented research they gathered on diabetes.

Bender said the project's diversity was "astounding."

"I love the conference because it brings everybody together every year," she said.

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