Grant will aid in river studies

Grant will aid in river studies University of South Dakota chemistry Professor Silvia Ronco has been awarded a prestigious grant from the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the Alice and Leslie E. Lancy Foundation Program (NCUR/Lancy) for a summer project concerning the Missouri River.

Ronco, the project coordinator, was awarded a $50,000 award for her project, "Retracting the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Contemporary Aspects of Culture and Environment along the Missouri River."

USD is one of six institutions awarded a NCUR/Lancy grant from more than 100 applicants.

The grants are the first in a three-year program that will provide exceptional undergraduates with the opportunity to do original work in close collaboration with faculty mentors.

In the 10-week summer research project, 10 undergraduate students will have summer research opportunities to study about Lewis and Clark and the Missouri River. The students, who will have a faculty sponsor, will receive stipends of $3,000 and additional support.

Weekly activities will include the "Lewis and Clark" lunch hour and off-campus events such as a daylong canoe trip down the Missouri River, hike up Spirit Mound, and a trip to Lewis and Clark Lake.

Travel funds will be available for student presentations at the NCUR conference next April 27-29, 2000 at the University of Montana in Missoula. Institutions also may apply for grant renewals of $25,000 for a second year.

According to Ronco, the project is an interdisciplinary program that integrates research across several disciplines. She said participating departments include archaeology, biology, business, chemistry, arts, history, psychology, nursing, mass communications.

"This approach is common in the sciences but this program is unique to undergraduate projects," said Ronco, noting that USD is a prime place to study Lewis and Clark because the nearby Missouri River was traveled by the explorers in their adventure across America early in the 18th century. In addition, the project is timely with the bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark exploration to be held in 2004.

"We are the only school that has an undergraduate approach across several disciplines to study Lewis and Clark," said Ronco.

An associate professor of chemistry, Ronco has been at USD for six years. She received an undergraduate degree (1981) and her Ph.D. degree in chemistry (1986) from the University of La Plata in Argentina.

Ronco was a research associate at Clemson University and the University of Notre Dame, where she was also a visiting scholar (1994). Ronco served as a program officer in the Chemical Sciences Division at the U.S. Department of Energy in 1995-96 while on leave from USD.

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