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May 21, 2009 - Three Aquinas students, Joanne Vander Hyde of Grand Rapids, Alyssa Fleser of Haslett, and Kirsten Borek of Comstock Park will be spending part of their summer conducting science research near Hastings. The three are part of a larger contingent of area college students receiving grants to do research at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, a Biological Field Station located south of Hastings. This year, the Institute awarded 17 grants for 11 research projects as part of the Undergraduate Research Grants for the Environment (URGE) program.

The URGE program provides a $3,500 stipend for students conducting summer research at the Institute, along with up to a $3,500 faculty mentor stipend that can be used for equipment purchases, general expenses, travel, or training needed for conducting the research project. Additionally, each grant award allows for up to $4,000 in room and board expenses for the student and faculty mentor.

Junior Joanne Vander Hyde and senior Alyssa Fleser are biology majors who will be working on a research project with Dr. Rob Bajema, associate professor of biology, to identify macro-invertebrates and micro-organisms. Junior Kirsten Borek, a biology major, will be working on a project with Dr. Summer Silvieus, assistant professor of biology, to examine the genetic sequences of hybrid oak trees.

The Institute’s Biological Field Station is one of the few independently operated Biological Field Stations in the country. It is made up of a consortium of thirteen Michigan and Indiana colleges and universities that includes: Albion College, Alma College, Aquinas College, Calvin College, Central Michigan University, Cornerstone University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Olivet College, Valparaiso University, and Western Michigan University. An advisory board made up of two representatives from each school oversees the consortium. This arrangement allows students research opportunities they may not have at their school, especially for the smaller schools that do not have their own research field station.

The Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is financed by a foundation created by Bill and Jessie Pierce in 1988. This is the fifth year of the URGE program, which has so far awarded over 75 research grants. A Fifth Anniversary Celebration will be held on Friday, June 12.

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