Participating in undergraduate research can open entire scientific vistas that students never knew existed. At Louisiana State University (LSU), undergraduate researchers will also have the opportunity see the world.
As part of a $1.4 million HHMI science education grant, and in a new collaboration with HHMI professor Isiah Warner, 5 to 10 LSU undergraduates will travel to the labs of infectious disease researchers in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia. In addition to expanding students’ options for research experience, the university hopes to broaden their perspective and introduce them to new ways of thinking about science.
“Too often U.S. students have an insular view of research,” says Randy Duran, a chemistry professor and the HHMI program director at LSU. Many U.S. researchers assume that the way science is done in this country is the best way, without seeking out opportunities to experience how researchers in another culture might approach a problem differently, he says. “By sending talented young students to world-class research labs abroad, we hope that they will be more open to discovering distinctive elements that make top scientists outside the U.S. successful and innovative.”
The international research opportunity is a natural follow-on to LSU’s existing student research program, which also has HHMI support. Students from LSU and across the country participate in a 12-week summer research program. LSU students can continue their research throughout the year. Those who excel at home get the opportunity to work in laboratories of HHMI investigators around the country who have links to LSU scientists.
Now students who have worked successfully in LSU labs will also be able to spend a summer and fall semester working with an international research group. The focus on infectious disease is expected to help students see the immediate relevance of their laboratory work as it is applied to societal needs, Duran says.