Undergraduate students use research to find solutions to real-world problems

Undergraduate students use research to find solutions to real-world problems

Undergraduate research has traditionally been more customary at four-year colleges. But that's changing.

Joe Felts' biology students at Davidson County Community College are using science to find solutions to real-world problems. This opportunity comes in the form of a new course called CURE, which stands for Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience. The course allows students to develop their own experiments and ideas to better understand what natural pest control might help save almost 60 percent of crop yields in Africa and South Asia.

“I’m hoping students develop a real interest in science,” Felts said. “With students generating their own ideas and experiments, I want to show them what science really is, a process.”   

During the course of the semester, students will work to identify the effectiveness of different methods of controlling the cowpea seed beetle population. Their experimentation primarily involves plant-derived compounds of essential oils and bio-control agents such as parasitoid wasps to keep the beetle population from decimating bean crops native to Africa and South Asia.

Research and research-based curriculum has traditionally been more customary at four-year institutions. Yet in the past 10 years, community colleges have begun to implement more research-based curriculum and opportunities on their campuses.

As a CURE development fellow, Felts was selected for his plan to take an inquiry-based course and transition it into a more engaging CURE course. The course took Felts over a year to create. CUREnet, the organization responsible for implementing these research-intensive courses across the nation, will sponsor the research with support from the National Science Foundation.

Students will also have the opportunity to take their research a step further. With additional work, students have the ability to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals or publications.

“This is real research that’s impacting stakeholders outside of the classroom, and I know the students will experience that what they’re learning has a stake in something that affects real people,” Felts said.

Joe Felts teaches biology at Davidson County Community College