NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates: Community College Cultivation Cohort (C4)

The C4 program has ended and will not be soliciting future applications.

Schroeder / USC

As part of our undergraduate education program, we focus heavily on hands-on research activities for community college students.  In the summers of 2016-2018, we held the Community College Cultivation Cohort (C4) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at USC. Each summer, cohorts of 8 highly motivated community college students interested in environmental microbiology were selected from across the US for the residential C4 program with a paid stipend.

C4 students spent 9 weeks characterizing the physiology (cellular function) and phylogeny (evolutionary history) of 1-2 recently isolated, novel marine microbial species. Working individually and in teams in select labs, these cohorts learned and applied state-of-the-art techniques ranging from DNA sequencing to microscopy and sterile techniques to analytical chemistry to fully characterize novel bacterial isolates from marine environments of interest to C-DEBI. The students were mentored individually by a scientist and a graduate student or postdoc, and they benefitted from group activities and multi-lab meetings. In addition to the research component, the program provided professional development activities that focused on successful transfer to a 4-year university and the application procedures for admission to graduate school.

The C4 students, in collaboration with Principal Investigator Dr. Jan Amend and several postdocs, generated original data in the characterization of several novel bacteria from marine systems. These studies resulted in Genome Announcements and Microbiology Resource Announcements manuscripts with C4 students as authors:

  • Geothermobacterstrains HR-1 and EPR-M are iron-reducers isolated, respectively, from the Loihi Seamount, Hawai’i (Smith et al. 2018) and a deep-sea hydrothermal vent on the East Pacific Rise (Tully et al. 2017)
  • Hydrogenovibriostrain SC-1 is a chemolithoautotrophic sulfur and iron oxidizer from near-shore waters of Catalina Island, California (Neely et al. 2018)
  • and Mariprofundus strain EBB-1 is an iron-oxidizing chemolithoautotroph isolated from an iron-sulfur mineral (Lopez et al. 2019)

Program Manager Dr. Stephanie Schroeder and Dr. Amend described the program’s effective incorporation of modern technologies to engage community college students in research in The Marine Technology Society Journal (2018). For more, visit the NSF REU award website (OCE 1460892).

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