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CAALS-3D provides summer research experience

For 44 high school students, the summer of 2012 included a week in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences laboratories learning about subjects ranging from plant breeding to biofuels.

The students, most of whom attend the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, were part of a program called CAALS-3D, which stands for Creating Awareness of Agriculture and Life Sciences Disciplines, Degree Programs and Discoveries.

CAALS-3D was created by Dr. Lisa Guion Jones, CALS assistant dean for diversity, outreach and engagement, and the CALS Diversity Council to provide a hands-on summer research experience for high school students who are members of groups that are under-represented in the CALS student population. The idea is that the summer research experience will increase the students’ awareness and interest in research and careers in food, agricultural, environmental and life sciences. The program also exposes students to CALS faculty and students.

Increased awareness of CALS programs and familiarity with CALS faculty may, in turn, lead to increased enrollment of under-represented students. Guion Jones said that among the first group of CAALS-3D participants to graduate from the School of Science and Math, 45 percent are now enrolled at N.C. State University, and 33 percent of these students are majoring in a CALS discipline.

All the participants in the first CAALS-3D group were minority males, and Dr. Joan Barber, School of Science and Math vice chancellor for student affairs, said this was the first time such a large number of minority male students chose N.C. State.

“It must be noted that these students have their choice of universities,” said Guion Jones. “Our college’s program, in part, is helping N.C. State be their university of choice.”

The School of Science and Math is a partner in the program, and most of the participants are Science and Math students. However, other students are referred by the North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals and other partner organizations. Up until this year, the program was limited to young men. Young women also were allowed to participate this year, and the total number of students involved rose from 26 a year ago to 44 this year, the fourth year of the program.

Picture of students giving a presentation at the end of the program.
Students participating in the CAALS-3D program are required to give a presentation on their research project at the end of the program.

Participants are divided into small groups and spend the week – the program was the week of July 16 this year – in a CALS lab working on a research project developed by a faculty member. The groups give short presentations on their projects at the end of the week.

CALS faculty and staff taking part in the program this year were Dr. Jose Ascencio-Ibanez, biochemistry; Dr. Julie Grossman and Sarah Seehaver, soil science; Dr. Sunny Liu, animal science; Dr. John Classen, biological and agricultural engineering; Dr. Wengiao (Wayne) Yuan, biological and agricultural engineering; Dr. Alexandria Graves, soil science; Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis and Carolina Zuleta, crop science; Dr. Marcela Rojas-Pierce and Dr. Eva Johannes, plant biology; Dr. Terri Long, plant biology; Dr. Yasmin Cardoza, entomology; Dr. Jose Bruno-Barcena, microbiology; Dr. Sue Carson, biotechnology; and Dr. David Threadgill, genetics. Dr. Ann Ross in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, also participated, providing a program on forensic anthropology.

CAALS 3D students who want more research experience can apply to a mentor-guided research component of CAALS 3D in which they work in the lab of a CALS faculty member after school for an entire academic year or full-time during the summer. Thus far, five students have participated in this more in-depth research component, one of whom shared his research at the annual N.C. State University Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Written by: Dave Caldwell, 919.513.3127 or

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