UI students across disciplines spend their vacations gaining real-world experience - and opportunities are expanding as the university's research awards increase in spite of national slumps. By Tara Roberts
What did University of Idaho students do over their summer vacation?
Across a rushing creek in Kooskia, Idaho, anthropology students unearthed artifacts from a World War II internment camp nearly lost to history. In the Costa Rican jungle, a student Fulbright scholar studied bats that help pollinate native plants. In a lab on campus, an international, interdisciplinary team studied the fundamentals of brain development.
Across the world, the nation and the state, UI undergraduate and graduate students spent the summer gaining hands-on skills and contributing to the future of their fields. Now back on campus for the fall, they'll find even more opportunities for research and scholarly activity at Idaho's only land-grant research university.
"We offer students the chance to take the knowledge they're learning in the classroom and actually translate it into a real-world research experience," says Jack McIver, vice president for research and economic development.
While many universities nationwide have seen research awards drop due to the federal budget sequestration, the University of Idaho saw an 18.1 percent increase in externally sponsored research awards from 2012 to 2013.
"This funding increase shows that we are an active research university that is competitive nationally," McIver says. "Our reputation is sound, and it's getting better."
As public and private research investments in the university continue to grow, the payoffs go not only to students and faculty, but also to people in Idaho and beyond.
"Our students are bright, they're well-prepared, and their work contributes to projects that address problems the state, region, nation and world are facing," McIver says. "When they move out into the job market, they're better trained. We're actually providing the nation and the world a better group of future citizens."
The university received a number of competitive federal grants in recent months, including National Science Foundation grants to study the interactions between cities and landscapes and to analyze, visualize and explore watersheds, as well as a National Institutes of Health grant to support faculty, students and facilities connected to the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies.
Most recently, the university announced the addition of its latest Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, or IGERT, a program funded by the National Science Foundation that helps expand interdisciplinary graduate educational and research opportunities - in this case, for the water resources program.
"We've got even more exciting things that we're working on now," McIver says. "We've got great faculty, great students and big ideas. Stay tuned."