IllinoisCollege of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

URM (Undergraduate Research and Mentoring): Mentoring in 'New Biology'

URM (Undergraduate Research and Mentoring): Mentoring in 'New Biology'

The generation of large biotechnology and omic datasets has the potential to revolutionize biology and agricultural research. However, a limited number of students possess the quantitative and informatics background, combined with a firm grounding in biology and agricultural sciences, necessary to make full use of these large datasets and enhance agricultural sustainability and community wellness. Moreover, the participation of students from underrepresented groups is disproportionately low compared to other fields.

The focus of the "Undergraduate Research and Mentoring: Mentoring in 'New Biology'", also known as the URM-NB program, is the mastery of the new biology through an appreciation that major challenges in modern biology cannot be accomplished without integrating math, physics, engineering, and information sciences.

To promote quality education and extend the boundaries of biology to new frontiers, our URM-NB program seeks to offer undergraduate students, especially underrepresented minority groups and individuals with disabilities, with effective academic and experiential opportunities in quantitative biology and informatics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

We are recruiting four cohorts of seven students each, who engage in intensive, independent, integrated research and mentoring in order to prepare them for graduate school. Students currently enrolled as undergraduates will be recruited from 2 and 4-year Colleges and Universities in Illinois and from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

The "URM (Undergraduate Research and Mentoring): Mentoring in 'New Biology'" (URM-NB) program goals are to:
  1. Promote quality education in biology, pushing frontiers through mentoring by world class faculty and through research in our state of the art laboratories across the Departments of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE), Agriculture and Consumer Economics (ACE), Animal Sciences (ANSC), Crop Sciences (CPSC), Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN), the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois and University of Illinois Extension;
  2. Increase the number of qualified students in biological programs through deliberate preparation in 2 and 4-year Colleges and Universities;
  3. Establish a record of success in graduation rates of under-represented students through guided support of students and their families.

Our program will expose baccalaureate students to high-level research in quantitative biology and informatics while helping them deal with the expected barriers that would normally preclude their considerations for advanced education. The year-round experiences will immerse students in the world-class academic and research environment of our university, while providing them with academic and career development opportunities. These experiences will enable experiential learning in several areas of inquiry, including plant and animal sciences, food science and human nutrition, agricultural engineering, agriculture and consumer economics, and extension. Students will become role models for younger students and 'Ag Ambassadors' who can 'reach out' to their respective communities (e.g. the Hispanic/Latino community) at any chosen instructional level (e.g., K-to-12, adult education, community forums, etc.). For example, students can participate in activities at the local Latino communities coordinated through the Hispanic Outreach Office of the University of Illinois Extension. The student families are welcome to participate in these activities and other Extension programs including 4-H, family development, financial planning, and entrepreneurial activities.


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   The Undergraduate Research and Mentoring in New Biology program
   is supported by NSF award #1041233.