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May 10, 2013

ECU Upward Bound students take hands-on tour

Ada —

Students and staff from the East Central University Upward Bound Math/Science Program were recently treated to a non-traditional and hands-on experience at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore.

Scientists from the Noble Foundation guided the students on a tour of hands-on activities. The students were able to interact with scientists from the Plant Biology Department and Agricultural Department in efforts to immerse students into the life of a scientist. Students worked with million-dollar, state-of-the-art equipment along the way.

“It brought a smile to my face to see the students enjoying their interactions with scientists, performing cutting-edge experiments,” said Amie Orr, director of the ECU Upward Bound Math/Science Program. “It was an exhilarating experience for both the staff and the students.”

The Sam Noble Foundation treated the students to activities that increased their depth of knowledge in biofuel technologies, legume studies, and analytic biochemistry. Dr. Lloyd Sumner, Ph.D., Plant Biology, and Mary Means assisted the students and staff on the tour.

During the biofuel technologies seminar, students learned about advances in switchgrass studies that are currently taking place at the Noble Foundation. Switchgrass is a leading bioenergy feedingstock in the United States due to the fact that it is native, has high yields, and has low agronomic input requirements.

The scientists as the Noble Foundation are attempting to decrease the world’s dependency on non-renewable resources and place our resources back into the renewable side. Companion crops, such as alfalfa, are also the subject of several Noble research and evaluation projects. Students learned that the entire genome of the Medicago truncatula has been mapped and will be used in subsequent studies to improve foraging cultivators.

Students also learned that the Noble Foundation created a fescue that contains a fungus that is nontoxic to ungulates such as horses. They participated in extractions, water and soil sampling, plant metabolics, mass spectrometry, and statistics in analytical measurements.

“It is our goal at Upward Bound Math/Science to place students in direct contact with professionals in both the math and science fields, thus creating a better-rounded individual while increasing aptitude for knowledge,” Orr said.

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