“It’s so powerful to have a question about the world, and to be able to answer it.”
Clark chemistry Professor Amanda Crochet has been involved in academic research since she was an undergrad. She said community college students don’t often get the opportunity to conduct research.
Crochet is one of six faculty members overseeing a scholarship program which could give students that opportunity. Students can now begin applying for Enhancing Cross-Disciplinary Infrastructure Training at Oregon, a Portland State University program which provides students from partnering schools with research training, mentorships and financial benefits in order to pursue undergraduate research at PSU.
The program, open to students with less than 90 credit hours, aims to increase diversity in the biomedical research field.
Up to five Clark students will be accepted into the program this Spring. The students will attend an orientation course this summer and take a gateway to research course next Fall through canvas. In their second summer, EXITO students will attend a month-long research intensive course at PSU, before transferring there in 2017.
Third and fourth-year EXITO scholars at PSU are grouped into research learning communities, where they’ll begin conducting academic research. Students will also receive 60 percent tuition coverage at PSU, a research stipend and mentorships from peers and professors.
Crochet is the lead EXITO faculty member at Clark, responsible for supervising the gateway to research course. “It was all created by the EXITO faculty members here at Clark,” Crochet said. “We know what it takes.”
Crochet said the course covers a variety of subjects, including accessing and interpreting primary literature, proper lab protocol and required ethics training, to prepare students for the research environment.
“They’re not going to get through this course and then walk into a lab and start busting out experiments,” Crochet said. Rather, the course is meant to prepare them for a university lab environment.
Currently, students don’t receive credit for completing the course, but Crochet hopes to change that.
The EXITO program is funded by a $23.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, as part of a larger initiative called Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity.
“They don’t want to just get white, Anglo-Saxon males and maybe some white Anglo-Saxon women doing research,” said Roberto Anitori, a Biology professor and Clark EXITO faculty member.
According to Anitori, the EXITO program is helping to build diversity by providing a pathway for community college students. “It’s not just about race, it’s financial opportunity.”
Anitori said most students start researching during their graduate studies. “You find an adviser and you find a project you like, and you hope they will take you on.” According to Anitori, students don’t receive much preparation before entering the research environment, and therefore must rely on job training.
Crochet said Clark is beginning to increase exposure to research for all students. She hopes that more options like the gateway to research course will be available to students in the future. “We want more courses like that,” Crochet said. “Ways that anyone can get involved and get a little taste of research.”