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Kirk Hietpas is studying whether earthworms have an effect on White Pine tree growth.  

While some UMD students are taking a break this summer, a few are taking their academic careers to a whole new level. These students are part of BURST, also known as Biology Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology.

According to Assistant Professor Jared Strasburg in the Department of Biology, the goal of the program “is to give students a research experience, so they know whether research is something they really want to do in the future.”

Kirk Hietpas, a BURST student, is finding the program invaluable. “I’ve done other research projects, but this is the first time I’ve done it full-time, and I’m loving it.” He added, “It’s also a lot different from what I’ve done before so I’m expanding my knowledge in ecology, too.”

Seven students, most in their junior year, were selected to take part in this summer’s program. The students worked with their faculty research advisors to decide on a topic and plan out their schedules. Here are the students, their projects, and their advisors:

* Andrew Boser is working with Associate Professor Julie Etterson to study the effects of temperature change on an Arctic plant species that grows along the shores of Lake Superior.

* Stephanie Grewenow is working with Jared Strasburg analyzing wolf DNA to help determine the degree of coyote hybridization in the Minnesota wolf population.

* Katelin Goebel is studying the habitats of the endangered wood turtle in a collaborative project with her mentor Associate Professor Ron Moen and the Department of Natural Resources.

* Kirk Hietpas is also working with Julie Etterson. He’s collecting earthworm samples in White Pine planting areas in an effort to determine whether the earthworms have an effect on tree growth.

* Murat Kalem and Rebecca Madden are analyzing a parasite that carries the Chagas disease, commonly found in Latin America. According to their mentor, Assistant Professor Sara Zimmer, their research could lead to progress in combating this disease.

* Alexandra Thies is partnering with Professor Matt Andrews to further research the hibernation of ground squirrels and the potential to create drug therapies that could accelerate fat burning.

The BURST program began at UMD in 2014 and is offered by the Swenson College of Science & Engineering. Students spend 40-plus hours a week for 10 weeks, investigating a chosen topic and delving deep into the process of scientific analysis.

Visit the Swenson College of Science & Engineering website for more information.

Strasburg reports that last year’s participants have already benefited. One student told him that his BURST experience helped him get accepted into a prestigious doctoral program.

BURST is funded primarily by private donors and UMD alumni. According to Strasburg, that support is crucial. “The people who have donated to this program recognize the importance of this type of experience,” he said.

Visit BURST for more information or to support student researchers in the BURST program.

For info about SCSE see Swenson College of Science & Engineering Website.

urst-research--disease Burst-research Burst-research-wolves
Murat Kalem (l) and Rebecca Madden (r) are analyzing a parasite that carries disease. Andrew Boser is studying temperature change on a plant that grows along Lake Superior. Stephanie Grewenow is analyzing wolf DNA.



Written by Valerie Coit. Photos by Valerie Coit, July, 2015.

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