EcoTek Students Continue Experimental Journey

Students from a Detroit high school visited the Patterson lab again on Saturday—this time to collect soil from the rhizosphere right next to the plant root to capture the bacteria—in the productivity experiment they started in October 2023.

The students visit once each month to plant, grow and harvest wheat and soy plants. Soon they will analyze the data and complete the second year that PSM faculty, staff and students have worked together with EcoTek to bring Detroit students to MSU for an on-going, hands on plant research experience.

EcoTek is a privately run lab facility in Detroit that offers high school student extra-curricular science experiences. EcoTek students come to labs in PSM, as well as Engineering and Forestry. One EcoTek student joined MSU’s Forestry department as an undergraduate after participating in the program.



Now a senior in high school in Detroit, Elaine says she likes gardening and has always been interested in science. “This is my first time working with soil and roots and rhizomes and things like that, and I’ve learned that every plant has different needs and the roots help them get what they need.”

I’ve learned that agriculture is a really important part of a sustainable society,” said Elaine. “Coming here to this lab and doing this experiment really showed me how vast the field is. I didn't realize how much experimenting went into just, like, the roots.” 


“We are trying to figure out if things like weeds and fertilizer make a difference on wheat and soybean plants,” Hayley said, while Dr. Eric Patterson showed her how to separate soil from roots.  “We’re, like, getting our hands dirty—not just writing down what the teacher says,” said Haley, who recently presented some of her work here in a poster at an event at Wayne State University: “What is Imagej and how does it play a part in phenotypic data analysis.”  


Dr. Addie Thompson took a turn digitizing root images on the flatbed scanner with the students on a Saturday.  “It's important to help them get interested in science like this as young as possible,” said Addie. ”Someone helped me like that, and I really liked it and I appreciate it. Now I’m giving back – helping the next generation.

Dr. Eric Patterson is leading the project for the second year. “Ultimately, we’d like to get more undergrads coming from Detroit, and EcoTek has helped us get together with these students and work with them.” Eric is also experimenting with techniques for running the program. “Last time we partnered up the students individually with each the lab. This time we’re all together, working on the same project, and I like it better.” Eric plans to help the students create posters of their project for the MID-SURE showcase this summer.


2024 Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE)

The 14th annual Mid-SURE will be held on Wednesday, July 24, 2024 at the STEM Teaching and Learning. Registration is May 28 –June 17, 2024.

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