KY NSF EPSCoR Supports Undergraduates in Research at Northern Kentucky University

At Northern Kentucky University, Dr. Celeste Morris, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, is providing undergraduate students with hands-on research opportunities. With funding from Kentucky NSF EPSCoR, Dr. Morris supports two undergraduate research students per summer to work in her lab full-time. As a member of KY NSF EPSCoR’s Bio-Inspired Membrane Technologies research pillar, Dr. Morris’ work is focused on developing advanced membranes and sensors with applications in water purification and medicine.

“The EPSCoR program is designed to enhance skilled workforce in the commonwealth,” Morris said. “My research is working with undergraduates to give them experiential learning opportunities that will enable them to get jobs in skilled areas related to medicine, energy, and technology.”

“If we can give them a real-world learning opportunity while they are still in their undergraduate careers, then that will enhance the outcome and economy of our workforce.”

Morris stresses the importance of involving students in research early in their careers. As the majority of Kentucky’s skilled workforce is comprised of professionals holding bachelors degrees, Morris identifies undergraduates as a critical target in the mission to develop a more robust STEM workforce in the state.

“Many individuals once they graduate do not go on to graduate school or professional programs, and so the majority of the workforce are individuals who hold bachelors degrees. If we can give them a real-world learning opportunity while they are still in their undergraduate careers, then that will enhance the outcome and economy of our workforce.”

Dr. Morris’ research group boasts an impressive track record of student success. In the past three years since she became an Assistant Professor at NKU, all 15 undergraduate students who have graduated under her mentorship have been accepted into either a graduate school or professional program, or have found a job in their field within one month of graduation.

“I think that’s an amazing track record,” Morris said. “It demonstrates why research is so essential, not only just working for me, but being involved in research in general.”

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