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News Release 05-186

NSF Announces Undergraduate Research Centers

Pilot program will help a broad range of students participate in real research

October 25, 2005

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced it will fund two new Undergraduate Research Centers (URCs), one based at The Ohio State University and the other at the University of South Dakota.

Together with a URC based at Purdue University, funded in 2004, these centers will constitute a 5-year, $9 million experiment to attract undergraduates into science from the very beginning of their college careers.

URCs will try to accomplish that mission by giving college students a chance to participate in authentic, potentially publishable research using the most up-to-date tools and methods. In that sense, the URC program will resemble some of the foundation's existing education efforts, notably the long-established Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. But unlike the REU awards, which tend to serve juniors and seniors at a relatively limited number of four-year colleges and universities, the URCs will seek to attract first- and second-year students in a much broader range of institutions--explicitly including 2-year community colleges, where nearly half of today's college students begin their studies.

"If we don't draw these students into science during their first years in college, it may be too late by the time they transfer into 4-year schools," says Richard D. Foust, NSF's program officer for the URC effort.

Indeed, a second major goal of the URC program is to get more of the nation's colleges involved in research. To that end, each of the three URCs has assembled a wide-ranging coalition of partner institutions.

Because NSF's Division of Chemistry leads this pilot program, all URC research projects are in the chemical sciences or in interdisciplinary areas supported by the chemical sciences.

"These first awards exemplify the kind of bold new models and partnerships the URC program was designed to support," says chemistry division director Arthur B. Ellis. "The projects hold great promise for strengthening our national chemical research enterprise by broadening participation to involve a much larger and more diverse talent pool, and by building research capacity at the participating institutions."



  • Ohio Consortium for Undergraduate Research: Research Experiences to Enhance Learning (2005)
    The Research Experiences to Enhance Learning (REEL) initiative, based at The Ohio State University, is intended to transform the current first- and second-year chemistry courses into a research-intensive program. The center will involve a collaboration among 15 public institutions of higher education in the state of Ohio, and is projected to affect some 14,000 students a year when fully implemented. Using Ohio's ultra high-speed electronic network, participants will develop, implement and evaluate research modules for undergraduate chemistry courses; build student-learning communities in chemistry within and across institutions; carry out collaborative, faculty-student research projects across multiple sites; and pool the projects' research results in a common data base. The principal investigator will be Ohio State chemist Prabir Dutta. The university's URC partners will be Kent State University; the University of Akron; Bowling Green State University; Capital University; Central State University; the University of Cincinnati; Cleveland State University; Columbus State Community College; the University of Dayton; Miami University; Ohio University; the University of Toledo; Wright State University; and Youngstown State University. 
    Contact:  Prabir Dutta, The Ohio State University,
  • The Northern Plains Undergraduate Research Center (2005)
    The seven institutions of the Northern Plains Undergraduate Research Center consortium, led by the University of South Dakota, will seek to make undergraduate research in chemistry an integral part of the entire 4-year  undergraduate curriculum. This multi-institutional reform is expected to bring research experiences to approximately 600 first-year students per year when the program is at full capacity. The center will provide access to major research instrumentation, along with technical expertise and training for setting-up and using modern scientific equipment and methods. It will sponsor research symposia and workshops on grant writing for participating faculty. It will  facilitate connections to industrial and government laboratories and international student exchange programs,. And it will attempt to build a stronger foundation for early undergraduate research through high school teacher outreach and training programs. In addition to its funding from NSF's chemistry division, the Northern Plains URC will receive support from the foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and its Office of Multidisciplinary Activities in the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. The principal investigator will be University of South Dakota chemist Mary Berry. The university's partners will include Augustana College; Mount Marty College; Dordt College; Buena Vista University; Sinte Gleska University; and Fort Berthold Community College.
    Contact: Mary Berry, University of South Dakota,
  • The Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (2004)
    The Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE), based at Purdue University, will create laboratory modules for students in first- and second-year chemistry courses across all of the nine CASPiE institutions. This effort will initially engage up to 500 students each semester. The modules will teach fundamental chemistry skills and concepts but will be interdisciplinary, involving authentic research projects developed by faculty in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Chemical Biology, Medicinal Chemistry, Food Science and Chemical Engineering departments. The modules will also incorporate the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model, in which undergraduates who have recently completed the course will help those who are currently enrolled. The center will provide students in the CASPiE institutions with online access to automated, research-quality instrumentation, and will help faculty members in those institutions develop research projects that exploit this capability. The principal investigator is Gabriela Weaver of Purdue University. Purdue's partners include the University of Illinois-Chicago;  Ball State University;  Northeastern Illinois University;  Olive Harvey College;  Harold Washington College;  Moraine Valley College;  College of DuPage; and Chicago State University. Additional information is available at
    Contact: Gabriela Weaver, Purdue University,

Media Contacts
M. Mitchell Waldrop, NSF, (703) 292-7752, email:

Program Contacts
Richard Foust, NSF, (703) 292-4948, email:
Arthur B. Ellis, NSF, (703) 292-4960, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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