By Margaret McKinney
The New Mexico Highlands’ Sigma Xi chapter earned a program award for its Student Research Fund, making it one of only seven chapters worldwide to receive this honor in 2011.
Sigma Xi is an honorary scientific research society with 522 chapters in more than 100 countries.
The Highlands chapter has a long track record of being named for program awards and other honors, such as the 2007 – 2008 Certificate of Excellence awarded for exceptional chapter activity.
“In a world increasingly impacted by science and technology, the need for informed science leadership in our communities and neighborhoods is great,” said Christina Gouin-Paul, a Sigma Xi board member. “Your Highlands University Sigma Xi chapter is helping create that kind of leadership through its distinguished performance.”
Highlands University biology professor Maureen Romine is the president for the university’s Sigma Xi chapter this year, and has served in this capacity a number of times during her tenure at Highlands.
“The Student Research Fund supports scholarly research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines on campus,” said Romine, whose Ph.D. is in botany and plant pathology. “When we fund students’ research, it helps build their internal motivation and innovation.”
In 2006, Robert Mishler, now an anthropology professor emeritus, established the Sigma Xi Student Research Fund. Since then, approximately 60 students have received scholarships.
The students write research proposals for consideration. If they get tapped for a scholarship, they work with a faculty adviser on their research.
This year, graduate students receiving the scholarships include biology majors Daniel Delgado, Penn Muluhngwi and Rahul Sidgel; geology majors Rhonda Trujillo, Marine Foucher, and Sevon Geil; forestry major Jennifer Runnels; psychology major Tyler Broderick; and political science major Serafettin Yimaz.
Undergraduates receiving the research scholarships this year are Jennie Guilez and Adrian Carter, both biology majors.
The students’ original research projects are as diverse as they are, ranging from the effects of bison grazing versus cattle grazing on bird diversity in Northern New Mexico to a mineralogical study of adobe at Fort Union National Monument west of Watrous.
Romine said the university’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects is a major source of funding for the student scholarships. Sigma Xi also receives donations for the scholarships from the campus community and others through the university’s foundation.
Approximately $4,000 each year is awarded for the Sigma Xi scholarships.
The university’s Sigma Xi chapter also supports promising young scientists through monetary awards to junior division winners at the Northeastern New Mexico Regional Science Fair that Highlands organizes each year.
“With these middle school age students, we’re channeling their strong natural curiosity into scientific research projects that help build their interest in science,” Romine said.
The university’s Sigma Xi Chapter supports other science outreach activities, like quarterly science cafes with faculty for the community, and monthly seminars to showcase the research of Highlands University faculty and outside researchers.
The Highlands Sigma Xi Chapter formed in 1960 and currently has 28 active members, including faculty and students.
Other Sigma Xi officers this year include clinical psychology professor Maura Pilotti, vice president, and biology professor Carol Linder, secretary/treasurer.