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Biology Professor Receives National Science Foundation Grant

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    Megan Rice and Allyson Plantz work with Professor Romi Burks on her applesnail research. The two will be accompanying Burks on a trip to Uruguay to write an NSF grant proposal (Photo by Lucas Adams).

Money will help her develop a proposal for undergraduates to conduct research abroad

Southwestern University Biology Professor Romi Burks has received an $18,000 Planning for International Research for Students grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will be used to write a proposal for a program that will enable undergraduate students to conduct research in foreign countries.

Burks is going to Montevideo, Uruguay, in November to work on the proposal with collaborators from the University of Hawaii, the University of Montevideo and the Natural History Museum in Montevideo. The grant proposal is due in September 2011 and Burks hopes it will lead to funding that will enable six to eight students to conduct research abroad for three years.

Two Southwestern students will join Burks on the trip to help write the proposal − sophomore Allyson Plantz and senior Megan Rice.

“Allyson and Megan will help us determine the level of comfort undergraduate students have with being in a foreign country,” Burks said. “They also will help us determine the level of involvement that undergraduate students can contribute to international research projects.”

Prior to going to Montevideo, the three will spend a week in Tucuman, Argentina, attending a scientific meeting for researchers who study the genus Pomacea. Burks’ research focuses on Pomacea insularum, and both Plantz and Rice have worked in her lab. They also will have a chance to investigate the native Pomacea insularum population in the field.

“I’m really excited,” Rice said. “The conference will give us a chance to hear a lot about other people’s research. I’m also looking forward to getting a chance to practice Spanish.”

This is the third time Burks has taken students to Uruguay over Thanksgiving. She took 2007 graduate Brandon Boland there in 2005 and took year 2009 graduates Colin Kyle and James McDonough there in 2008.