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Unique UMU Program Offers Students Funding for Self-Designed Research

January 03, 2022

During the summer of 2021, three University of Mount Union students had the unique opportunity to conduct individualized research projects as part of the Brumbaugh Scholars Program. Each year, the program offers a stipend for up to four students to conduct research of their choosing under the guidance of a faculty mentor at the John T. Huston – Dr. John D. Brumbaugh Nature Center

“This program is unique, in that it is open to any and all majors, from art to biology, and it is driven by the students,” said Jamie Greiner, former sustainability and campus outreach manager, who served as mentor for Alejandra Twiss ’21. 

Alejandra Twiss '21, crouches in a soybean field as she examines a leaf from a weed exposed to pesticides.

Twiss, a French and geology double major, compared the effectiveness of an organic commercially sold herbicide to that of a synthetic herbicide during her summer research.

“Being a Brumbaugh Scholar allowed to me to pursue an area of interest with the help of a mentor to properly and effectively collect data,” Twiss said. “The fact that there aren’t any parameters in area of concentration allows for all students to pursue an any area of interest without many limitations, science and non-science concentrations included.”

In addition to the Nature Center’s labs and facilities, students had access to more than 160 acres of forests, fields, ponds, and gardens.

Ryland Black '22 installs trail cameras on the Nature Center trails and notes their location in a notebook.

Ryland Black ’22, a biology and Spanish double major, took advantage of the Nature Center’s vast acreage to set up nearly 30 trail cameras and capture more than 60,000 images in his search for bobcats.

“Ryland learned a lot about setting up wildlife cameras, identifying wildlife travel corridors and habitat features that attract wildlife,” said Adam Zorn, program manager for the Nature Center, and one of Black’s co-mentors along with Chris Stanton, professor of biology and director of the Nature Center. "He and I were some of the first public users of a new wildlife data platform called Wildlife Insights.”

After a summer of research and analysis, the program culminated with a research showcase this past fall where the scholars presented their findings to members of the community.

Emily Becker '23 poses in a hat in gloves at the Nature Center, holding a small tub of mollusks in water.

Emily Becker ‘23, an environmental science major, spent her summer surveying nearly 30 species of mollusks throughout the Nature Center properties.

“This experience allowed me to design and carry out my own research with the help of faculty, something that would have likely never been obtainable in high school or at larger universities as an undergrad,” Becker said. “It also allowed me to become familiarized with field collection and surveying techniques on my own terms that will be a useful skillset when applying for field positions in the future!”

Currently, the Brumbaugh Scholars Program is seeking proposals for the upcoming summer session. Interested students are invited to apply by January 21, 2022.

“I would encourage students to sign up for this summer program as you get a field experience doing something your motivated about with the help of a mentor and the rest of the Nature Center staff,” said Twiss. “The sky is literally your limit.”

More information is available at