MSRE 2012: Kicking off the Summer Research Experience

The McNair Junior scholars jumped into the McNair Scholar Research Experience this Wednesday. Over the next few months, scholars will whet their scholarly appetites and gain a new understanding of research by working on their own projects under the guidance of their faculty mentors.

University Hall, the first academic building on the University of Nebraska campus

 

Before discussing the various benchmarks for their research and receiving an overview of the process, scholars watched “Frontier University Dreams,” a production of Nebraska Educational Television. The film details the first few decades of the University of Nebraska, from its founding as a land-grant university in 1869 and near failure in the 1890s, to the university’s golden age, when research in agriculture contributed directly to improving farmers’ ability to prosper on the prairie.

 

Many kinds of windmill can be seen in on the Nebraska prairie

During its first few decades as an institution, the university, thanks to James Hulme Canfield, grew a relationship with the farmers and ranchers of Nebraska. Researchers like Erwin Hinckly Barbour continued to serve farmers, through his own observations on fossil digs in rural Nebraska. He noticed the variety of homemade windmills dotting the prairie landscape, and applied his scientific abilities to cataloguing the different types of windmills.  The resulting publication became a guidebook for farmers and ranchers who, looking for relief from a drought that had been going on for years, could use the patterns in the extension bulletin to make their own windmills. This was especially helpful for those farmers who needed access to water, but did not have the resources to buy an expensive manufactured windmill.

From its inception, the University of Nebraska was intended to serve all of Nebraska’s residents. All were welcome to enroll, including women and African-Americans, at a time when schools back East were open to white males only (most Ivies only began accepting undergraduate co-eds starting in the 1960s).

Now that McNair scholars know about Nebraska’s past, they can continue the tradition of serving the community and applying their abilities to further scientific knowledge.

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