A new program will be established to provide research experiences for predominantly underrepresented minority undergraduate students from urban areas in urban environmental sciences. A cohort of 12 students per year will be recruited largely from the Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and other similar programs for an 8-week summer research experience at Rutgers University in Newark and nearby field sites. Impoverished inner city areas in the United States represent the largest untapped source for human resources in STEM. This program will encourage students from this background to pursue environmental sciences by showing relevance and importance of the research to their lives and communities in terms of public health and quality of life. The students will be challenged by the dynamic complexity of the interacting environmental systems and the specter of attempting to develop ways to make such impacted systems sustainable. The goal is to transition this challenge into a desire to pursue research in it and ultimately to create a pathway for inner city youth into STEM research careers by making them of personal interest. Although students will conduct research in distinct areas of environmental geophysics, geochemistry, ecology, biogeoscience and geospatial analysis, all efforts will be interrelated for the students so they can appreciate the importance and interplay of each project. Projects will look at the geochemistry of inorganic pollutants in soils and their effect on plant growth, phosphate and other fertilizer runoff and sequestration in mineral species, the movement and natural attenuation of contaminants in shallow groundwater systems and the effect of air pollutant fallout on natural systems among others. The program will especially utilize the nearby highly impacted but now protected Hackensack Meadowlands as a unique natural laboratory for projects. The research experiences will be integrated into the student educational experiences to unify them rather than having them be stand-alone experiences. This will be done through a series of workshops which will also connect the research and educational experience to graduate education and careers. The integration of research experience, college education, graduate studies and career will form the cornerstone of the model pathway.
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