Many scientists see the opportunity for undergraduate research as a powerful tool to convince women and minorities to pursue scientific careers. ``Doing research builds self-confidence, builds interest,'' says Sue Kemnitzer, executive director of the federal task force on Women, Minorities, and the Handicapped in Science and Technology in Washington, D.C. ``A lot of these people have never been told that they can do science before.''
But what about colleges that have no research programs, or aren't doing research in an area that interests a particular student? A year-old program between seven liberal arts colleges in Ohio and the Carolinas lets women studying at one school spend the summer doing research at another.
``Some of our schools have summer research opportunities and some don't,'' explains Mary Beth Bunge, executive of the Carolinas-Ohio Science Education Network.
The program has let students at liberal arts colleges spend the summer working in a lab at another college with different facilities. Students who graduate from the program and later go on to earn their PhDs are guaranteed a teaching appointment at one of the seven colleges.
Last year, 26 students participated in the program; this year there are already 130 applications for 80 spaces, says Bunge.
``We're really encouraging students to be researchers or teachers, not pre-med,'' she says.
Indeed, two of last summer's participants who had wanted to go to medical school have changed their career objectives after their summer experiences and applied to graduate chemistry programs.