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Team Rice: Developing Students as Scientists

November 16, 2015


Redesigning the Undergraduate Experience through Early and Continued Research Experiences

Award: 2015-38422-24073 Award Amount: $274,790

Alison M. Bray, Ph.D. (Texas Lutheran University) and Michael Grusak, Ph.D. (USDA Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center)


The purpose of this grant is to enhance recruitment and retention of underrepresented undergraduates in STEM/STEAM fields at Texas Lutheran University (TLU)

Improve recruitment and retention of students in STEM/STEAM fields through early intervention by training students in research and problem solving at the beginning of their undergraduate education.

  • Undergraduate students will be involved in a research methods course work leading to summer research opportunities beginning in their freshman chemistry courses.
  • New course for second semester freshman: Introduction to Research Methods in Chemistry (IRMC)
  • Students from IRMC course will participate in summer research at TLU
  • 3 TLU students: Rice research or other Ag related projects in collaboration with USDA
  • Remaining students: research with other chemistry/biology faculty at TLU
  • Students will continue research through the following school year, presenting results at local and national scientific meetings
  • Select students will have the opportunity to intern at USDA-CNRC labs in Houston

High school students, Seguin and Navarro high schools (both with large numbers of traditionally underrepresented populations) and 6th grade students from Navarro will also be impacted through the planned outreach activities.

  • These experiences will inform students about science careers in agriculture, strengthen their understanding about scientific methods, and, through interactions with TLU college students, visualize a college science degree as a personal and realistic option.

Scientific Research

The primary scientific project to be investigated by student researchers will be the uptake of arsenic by rice plants.

  • Rice is known to accumulate arsenic in the grain due to flooded conditions
  • Based on pilot studies already done by TLU with the help of ARS, students will conduct research on periodic drying of rice plants to see if this approach could minimize the uptake of arsenic into the edible rice grain

The purchase of Perkin Elmer 8000 ICP-OES, will greatly modernize our laboratories, producing students better prepared for the future workforce.

Key Outcomes

  • Improved laboratory research methodology and skills for undergraduates
  • Updated technology for better educated students
  • Enhanced K-12 Outreach
  • Improved awareness of agricultural/food science opportunities
  • Collaborative relationship with TLU and USDA-ARS
  • Better understanding of arsenic uptake by rice based on growing conditions

Lead to:

  • Increased recruitment and retention of traditionally underrepresented students in STEAM fields
  • More diverse, numerous and competitive students for the agricultural workforce
  • Potential for modified rice growing methods and increased food safety


  • Texas Lutheran University: 125 students per year
  • Seguin and Navarro ISDs: 100 students per year
  • USDA: Research Collaboration, Student Interns, Future workforce
For more information about the USDA and National Institute of Food & Agriculture Grant awarded, view the press release.

Follow the progress @tlu_teamrice