Through a nearly $400,000 grant from the National
Science Foundation, Midwestern State University’s Kimbell School of Geosciences
will begin an outreach program to high school students that will prepare them for
studies and careers in geoscience and environmental fields.
The Bridge and Earth Science
Training (BEST) Program will recruit high school juniors and seniors to
participate in a geoscience summer camp at the university, and then invite them
to continue their studies at MSU as geoscience majors. The $398,866 grant
includes a $2,000 research stipend for students in the camp who come to MSU and
major in geosciences. A three-year project coordinator will be hired to assist
with the daily operation and outreach.
“The BEST program is exciting
for Wichita Falls and North Texas because it helps local and regional high
schools and students become an active part of scientific research done at a
university level,” said Dr. Jesse Carlucci, associate professor in the Kimbell
School of Geosciences. “We plan on running a camp where high school students
can actually learn how to do research, interact with professionals in a variety
of geoscience fields, and become active participants in science.”
The summer camp is the main
component of the BEST Program, one that Carlucci hopes will provide a bonding,
catalytic experience for BEST scholars. High school juniors and seniors will
learn how geoscientists apply scientific concepts to real-world problems during
the weeklong experience. In addition to developing a cohesive student group,
one of the main objectives of the camp will be to build relationships between
the students and MSU geoscience faculty, local geoscience professionals, and
current MSU students who will serve as camp counselors. The group will take field
trips to active workplaces and laboratories that will reinforce this link and
provide additional exposure to the role of geoscientists in the real world.
Students will participate in a
research project on water quality and environmental issues in conjunction with
the Red River Authority (RRA) and the Texas Stream Team (TST) on water quality
monitoring programs using protocols established by the Texas Council on
Environmental Quality. The students will learn to take measurements from
industry professionals, and their data will contribute to an ongoing research
collaboration between MSU, RRA, and TST. Students will investigate and test
hypotheses related to factors such as variations in rainfall severity, extended
dry or seasonal changes, and rates of change of key water parameters to overall
water quality in the Red River Watershed. Through this collaboration, students’
research will inform policy makers’ decisions related to land use, water use,
or permitting, which will affect residents in the Holliday Creek and Red River watersheds.
One of the most exciting parts
of the program is that students will be paid as they learn research techniques.
“Our goal is to allow students to feel like professional scientists much earlier
in their academic careers,” Carlucci said. “We are planning many outreach
activities to promote the grant, and we want all the local schools to know that
the geosciences are a great career option for their students. All of our
planned programs involve actively doing science, rather than learning in a
Geoscience careers include water
resource management, environmental assessment and consultation, petroleum
production/exploration, and fundamental research – and the fields are
expanding. The growing job market and a prediction from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics that more than 143,000 geoscientists will retire in the next 10
years show an increase in demand for those in the field. Programs such as BEST will
assure the demand for energy and hydrology professionals across the United States
can be met.
Carlucci said that earth
science courses are not required for graduation in Texas, which could cause
many high school students, along with their parents, teachers, and guidance
counselors, to be less knowledgeable about the variety of geoscience careers.
BEST can act as a bridge between North Texas high schools and MSU, to educate
students, teachers, counselors, and parents about the geosciences as well the
opportunities for careers.
The NSF is an independent
federal agency created by Congress
in 1950 to promote the progress of science. With an annual budget of $7.5
billion, the NSF is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all
federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and
universities. NSF is the major source of federal backing for many fields such
as mathematics, computer science, and the social sciences.
Contact Carlucci at firstname.lastname@example.org for more