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It’s “Graduate School 101” on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus, as undergraduate students get an introduction to the rigors of graduate research through the McNair Scholars Program.

UW Oshkosh senior Sitha Thor is testing about 50 fruit, herb and plant samples as part of his research, “Screening and Identifying Hmong Medicinal Plants in the Virology Laboratory, ” under the mentorship of  UWO virology professor Teri Shors.

The federally funded McNair Scholars Program matches selected students interested in pursuing doctoral studies with faculty mentors who help them design, implement and complete a significant research project. The goal of the McNair Scholars Program is to increase the number of students from first-generation, low-income and underrepresented groups who earn advanced degrees.

“My mentor helps oversee my progress and my methods and experiments to determine if they are going according to the latest known scientific theories,” Thor said.

Sophomore Fauzia Osman’s research also involves laboratory analyses, as she studies antimicrobial activity in unique compounds found in pigmented bacteria isolated from the Fox River.

“My research will cover a 12-week timeline in 2012, during which I will culture the bacteria I obtain from the Fox River, characterize them and select them based on the color they produce,” she said. “If any crude pigment extracts have antibacterial activities, further research will be conducted.”

Assistant microbiology professor Sabrina Mueller-Spitz has helped Osman through the research process.

“Dr. Sabrina is a very understanding and great teacher,” Osman said. “She gave me advice about where to find research papers that are relevant to my research area and has followed that up with equipping me with the skills to develop a useful database for categorizing and saving my work.”

Meanwhile, junior Kristi Wirth has been investigating factors that affect music preference. “Specifically, I am looking at how levels of depression and personality traits may influence the liking of sad, neutral or positive music.”

Last semester, Wirth worked with psychology instructor Quin Chrobak to conduct a three-part experiment with UWO psychology students.

“Dr. Chrobak has been a tremendous help through this whole process,” Wirth said. “I bounced ideas off of him constantly. He offered a lot of feedback and suggestions for improvement, but ultimately, let me make the final decisions.”

Additional 2012 McNair Scholars and their areas of study include:  Ryan Bures, senior, neurobiology;  Whittany Byrd, senior, human services; Nicole Carpio, senior , environmental  science/biology;  Jaime Castillo, senior, biology/microbiology; Brandi Deptula, senior, microbiology; Joseph Draven, senior, biology/microbiology; Papa Fall, senior,  human services leadership;  Chelsy Herring,  senior,  geography; Donavon Johnson, junior, African American studies;  Jeremy Kroll, senior, religious studies; Suave’ Kyles,  junior, nursing; Adrian Landreth, senior, chemistry;  Lang Lee, senior,  psychology; Michael  Mason, senior,  nursing/religious studies;  Fabiola Navarro,  junior, psychology;  Grant O’Connell, senior, neurobiology; Tyra McFarland,  junior, economics; Ted Robbins, senior,  psychology; Adam Robinson,  junior, neurobiology;  Benjamin Sajdak, senior, neurobiology; Taylor Waring, junior, English; Darin White, junior, religious studies; and You Yang, senior, microbiology.

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