Lewis and Clark focus of study funded by NSF grant; University of South Dakota students will partici

Lewis and Clark focus of study funded by NSF grant; University of South Dakota students will participate Twelve students from area colleges, including eight students from The University of South Dakota, have been selected to take part in a 10-week research program that will study the culture and environment along the Missouri River.

The new program is funded by a $173,605 grant from the National Science Foundation given to USD. This is the first year of a three-year program titled, "Retracing the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Contemporary Aspects of Culture and Environment along the Missouri River."

Courtney Nelsen of Vermillion, the daughter of Connie and Dennis Nelsen, is among the students taking part in the 10-week program.

Included in the program are research studies in NSF-eligible areas, as well as non-science areas studying the modern environment along the Missouri River. Eight students have been selected to conduct research and qualify for funding in NSF-eligible areas and will join four additional students in other non-science fields, provided by funding from USD.

Each student selected to work in the program had to design his or her own research project or join an existing project. In addition, an on-campus USD faculty member is sponsoring each student and will be acting as a mentor for the students.

The main objective of the program is to develop a truly interdisciplinary research program, taking advantage of the unique regional resources. The program consists of three main components, the first of which is the research itself. Included are projects studying the Missouri River with all areas including biology, chemistry, psychology, archeology, history, art and business.

The second component involves social and educational events of those involved. Outings will occur biweekly and combine an activity, such as canoeing or hiking, with presentations about the region by faculty members from the university.

The third component is the focus on the communication of research results. Students will be required to write a report at the end of the program, present it at USD's annual undergraduate research conference, IdeaFest 2002, and submit abstracts and attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

Royce Engstrom, dean of research at USD, said the program is beneficial to all those involved.

"This program represents a unique opportunity for students and for USD, since the National Science Foundation has selected it for funding through a highly competitive review process," he said. "The unique aspect of this project is that it makes extensive use of a local resource, the Missouri River, and it involves students from many different disciplines."

The NSF grant provides students with a $3,000 summer salary, $500 supply allowance and $1,000 for living expenses. The program runs from May 29 to Aug. 3.

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