Land-Grant Universities including those that were developed under the second Morrill Act in 1890 have historically been a key resource for the best scientifically based information for agricultural production. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) is situated on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a critical area, with small farms and underserved farmers. This unique location serves as an interface between University specialty crop research and those farmers. While prices of crops such as corn and soy, which traditionally have been a major source of income for local farmers, have increased dramatically over the past years, small farms cannot generate enough income from these commodity crops alone, and a need alternatives for extra income. In UMES agricultural, chemical and material research specialists formed a special research and training cluster in which they work jointly on non-traditional and non-food related applications of specialty crops in the field of material research leading to non-traditional applications of such crops. Examples of such research are:
Blending natural specialty crops extracts with polymers to develop natural and effective anti-foaling coating to prevent biofilm formation on objects including military ships, platforms etc.;
Using biocompatible polymeric chitosan-based blends as sorbents for reversible carbon dioxide capturing and controlled release in algae-growing reactors and in the process of transforming biomass into alcohol by fermentation to increase the effectiveness of biomass use.
Only about 20% of students-researchers in the cluster are graduate students and the rest are undergraduates. The main focus is to provide undergraduate students with research experience as a powerful tool for their education and career development. Focus on students performing outstanding research through their undergraduate education is the main priority in UMES. Working on the material research projects described above, our material cluster has developed some practices which effectively involve undergraduate students in research. These practices include early involvement, development of special workshops and training sessions for fast project starts, working in small groups lead by more experienced students, picking projects that can be easy divided into small tasks suitable to undergraduate student’s schedules, and supporting travel for undergraduates to attend professional meetings. In this presentation we will review the two material research projects for undergraduate students mentioned above and will show how our best practices are implemented in each of these projects.