At the University of Kentucky, the Environmental Research Training Laboratories (ERTL) are training the next generation of scientific researchers.

ERTL is a hands-on learning and research facility specializing in a variety of organic and inorganic analyses and microbial analyses. Established in 2002 by a grant from Kentucky NSF EPSCoR, ERTL’s mission is to help students, like these, through personalized training and access to state of the art laboratory equipment.

In addition to UK students, ERTL also offers mentorship and training to students at Kentucky State University every summer through Kentucky NSF EPSCoR’s Peer-Led Team Learning program.

“I think we often think that science and engineering is a little bit scary and rigid, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Megan Combs, Research Facility Manager at ERTL. “We are mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers, and I think that leaving a positive impact is critical. We want to make research approachable, research can be for anyone.”

I had the opportunity to use new equipment that I’ve never used before, and now I get to take that experience back to K-State.

This summer, ERTL mentored two students from Kentucky State University. For students from smaller regional colleges like KSU, visiting ERTL allows them the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment unavailable at their home institution. Rather than running students through a strict, programmed science curriculum, ERTL encourages students to develop their own research project from the ground up, allowing them to pursue the subjects that interest them the most.

“Going to small college, we don’t have everything that we have here at ERTL,” says Demetrius Davis, a junior at Kentucky State University. “I had the opportunity to use new equipment that I’ve never used before, and now I get to take that experience back to K-State.”

I now know that research is where I want to be…I can see this being the first of many research experiences for myself.

For many students who visit ERTL, the experience provides them with their first glimpse of what research is really like. Vanetta Graves, a junior at Kentucky State University, observes the impact that her experience at ERTL has had on her future career plans, “I now know that research is where I want to be. This was a valuable first experience for me, and I can see this being the first of many research experiences for myself.”

ERTL also hosted University of Kentucky senior, Laira Kelly, this summer. Like Graves, Kelly observed how her research experience has affected her plans for the future, “I’ve decided that I’m going to go to grad school because of this research project. I want to get more involved in research as the year goes on . . . and maybe do research for other professors at UK or other universities.”

For more information about Environmental Research Training Laboratories, visit: ertl.uky.edu

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