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Scientists come calling for research
27 January 206

BISMARCK (UTN) - When summer rolls around a tribal college student could be getting acquainted with the corn rootworm. Another might be occupied with what goes in and comes out of yearling cows grazing on alfalfa.

      Or one might be studying childhood obesity among American Indians.

UTTC students listening
IS THIS FOR ME? UTTC students listen for a good fit in descriptions about research projects at the Human Nutrition Research Center of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Grand Forks, ND. Director Gerald F. Combs, Jr. talks with, from left, Margaret Vivier and Jeremy Silk (both Standing Rock), and Martha Trottier, Bismarck, during an information session about research internships January 26.

      Those are several research projects planned or underway for summer 2006 and open to internships by students at United Tribes Technical College.

      Scientists from four USDA Agricultural Research Service locations in the Dakotas described their projects January 26 for students interested in a summer internship.

      Most found it interesting, even entertaining, to hear how scientists plan, for example, to study ways of helping good bugs prey on bad bugs in soybean fields.

      "It's exciting to see the interest students have in research," said Cheryl Long Feather, United Tribes Technical College research director. "It's not boring at all. We haven't really tapped their potential for contributing to the research field."

      Some projects seem all the more relevant if they concern a topic with tribal interest. Tribal Environmental Science student Jeremy Silk was interested in two that plan to study nutrition.

      "Either the study about diet or the one on obesity," said Silk. "Yes, I plan to apply."

      One is a study of diet and activity among American Indian children and the other is about prevention of obesity in pre-schoolers. Both are projects of the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, an organization that has partnered with UTTC to expand tribal college research opportunities.

      Other projects described were located at the North Central Agricultural Research Lab at Brookings, SD, the Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center at Fargo, and the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory at Mandan.

      The session was organized by Wanda Agnew, director of UTTC's USDA Extension and Land Grant programs and Jen Janecek Hartman, director of Tribal Environmental Science programs. It follows a pilot project last summer with two UTTC students and marks the first time that scientists came calling at the college to recruit interns.

      "I couldn't be happier with the way this relationship is unfolding," said Agnew. "When we began talking to the ARS (USDA Agricultural Research Service) it was one of those good things you try to do - to strengthen our research capabilities. Now we're in the second year of a five year project and it's evident from the amount of interest and participation by students and staff that we're making good progress."

      When United Tribes and the other tribal colleges received designation as Land Grant colleges in 1994, a door opened to a world of land-based research that was historically the province of big universities. UTTC President David M. Gipp and Sinte Gleska University President Lionel Bordeaux were instrumental in creating the federal legislation and getting it approved.

      Over ten years later, the connection is paying dividends as tribal college students connect with well-established research programs of the land grant universities.

      "Last summer it was two interns, this summer it will be six positions," said Agnew. "Our goal is to have 30 students from United Tribes on research internships over the summer of the fifth year."

      Receiving one of the six summer internships is a competitive process for which UTTC students will have to apply and be accepted.