Northern Arizona University has won a $700,000 federal grant to help Native Americans and other underrepresented students do scientific research.

"It funds undergrads to work with faculty mentors on cutting-edge research," said Nancy Johnson, an ecologist who founded and directs the program.

The Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) program replaces the 10-year-old Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB) program. More than 50 students have participated in the program since its beginning.

The new grant broadens the scope to more fields in biology.

The money from the National Science Foundation will pay $15,000 in scholarships and wages per year to each of seven or eight students to study under top biologists, chemists, foresters, environmental scientists and others at NAU.

"That grant is very exciting because it's going to provide all kinds of marvelous research opportunities for some of our very best undergraduate students here at NAU," said Maribeth Watwood, biology department chair.

The program helped student Ciarra Greene win another fellowship by helping her develop her research, she said in an e-mail. She is in Boston for a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

She worked on academic development and also personal development, she said. She said it was a great experience, making friends and mentors and opening up new opportunities.

"We want to take it another step and get those students confident in their abilities with research so they can get accepted at top graduate schools in the country," Johnson said.

The students will get help applying to grad schools and paying grad school application fees.

Johnson has been driven to improving diversity in science because of an experience she had as a student.

An advisor told her she couldn't be a researcher and get a Ph.D. and have a family, she said. But she did it.

Today, women are a majority in biology fields, she added.

Now, she said, the underrepresented groups include Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans and disabled people.

Becky Pallack can be reached at or (520) 954-2492.

(7) comments


Finally, support from Northern Arizona University and recognition in the exemplary abilities of Native Americans. I choose to beat the stereotype of what and how non-natives think of my people. I love Flagstaff, but sometimes these glares from non-natives are disheartening. My people, let's talk to our children in a positive manner and create a strong foundation so the generations to come will also carry strong values and a positive and healthy character. Ashoo di. Thank you NAU!


I am so disappointing that the Federal Government continues to Hand out grants for individual racial backgrounds. I won't discuss how I feel about the 1st comment posted but I will say this, everyone in this country should be equal now. It is the 21st century and its about time that we realize this. Rejoin the United States as a Nation not as a reservation.


Apologies for incorrect spelling in my previous comment.


[quote]Jenny0082 said: "I will say this, everyone in this country should be equal now. It is the 21st century and its about time that we realize this. "[/quote]

Oh Jenny. All it takes is a quick look around in almost any corner of this country to clearly see that we are in fact NOT all equal. No matter whether you and others think we should be by now...we are not. Grants are a proactive attempt to address these very real inequalities. Open your eyes and your heart.


It's funny how people change once money gets involved. Now you want a piece of the pie. Are you kidding me? Why don't you just wish the recipients of the funds, SUCCESS. Because we all know that NOT every native american is a street drunk.

Good luck and make us proud!!!!!

Joe T
Joe T

This is exactly the kind of thing I want to see where I go to school. None of my classmates who are native are any less dedicated or qualified. They deserve an equal opportunity considering that they're underprivileged in what might also be a very distant environment. Perhaps it is isn't just them that benefit from this relationship. P.S The fact that it's Dr. Johnson orchestrating this program is especially enriching for those who want to participate in research. he subjects are hard...g-luck


Jenny0082: you read an encouraging article and come away with nothing but complaints and disappointment?? Jeez...some people sure approach life darkly!

You say: "everyone in this country should be equal now" - sure, they SHOULD be - but, ARE they??? Do you REALLY think there would be grants like this if that were actually the case?

And rejoin the nation?? This grant helps these students build confidence so they can get accepted at top graduate schools in the country. The country = the nation.

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