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Marlyn Jacobo a participant in the Assured
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Marlyn Jacobo, a participant in the Assured

June 10, 2010
Marlyn Jacobo, a participant in the Assured--the Agriculture Summer Science Research and Development--program, uses a pipette to dispense chile DNA into tubes for genetic analysis. The familiar bell pepper, Capsicum annuum, comes in an array of hues. Students participating in the program research various ways to enhance pepper crops and prepare presentations about their findings. Prior to participating in the Assured program last summer, she had spent summers in the fields picking chiles and onions. [Image 2 of 4 related images. See Image 3.]

More about this Image: Assured, which is run by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute, takes ten college freshmen and sophomores who are the children and/or grandchildren of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, and gives them a chance to work with plants inside in a lab, rather than outside in the fields picking crops.

The program gives students the opportunity to experience first hand, the satisfaction of enhancing a crop through research. Students learn lab techniques, plant breeding, nutrients and the ethics and process of research, after which they prepare presentations about their findings. Examples of topics used by students include the control of a pepper-blighting fungus, the effect of an herbicide on crops, agricultural economics and isolation of chile DNA. Assured prompts students to consider the possibility of improving productivity through genetic engineering, making plants pest resistant and boosting the nutritional value of a harvest.

Assured is sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.