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NMSU Chile Pepper Institute Unveils Migrant Scholar Program

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute has found an innovative way to spice up the summer with scholarships for students with migrant roots.

Danise Coon, assistant director of New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute, prepares experimental chile plants that will be used later this summer by a specially selected group of students coming from migrant backgrounds. The NMSU and National Science Foundation project underscores training in undergraduate research and development. (05/05/2003) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

A two-year, $120,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the creation of an eight-week summer program called Assured, short for agricultural summer science research and development program.

The goal is to introduce students with migrant backgrounds to the agricultural research process and to broaden their interest in scientific studies, said Danise Coon, assistant director of NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute. "We're looking for kids who really want to know how research is done, and have an interest in agriculture," she said.

NMSU's internationally recognized chile breeders are seeking 10 students who are U.S. citizens from first or second-generation migrant families anywhere in the United States. Program participants can be high school students will some college credits, or university freshmen or sophomores.

In addition to a $3,000 stipend, students will receive a cash allowance for meals and housing in one of NMSU's dormitory facilities, limiting students' expenses to travel costs, she said. The eight-week session begins June 9 and runs through Aug. 1

During the summer session, students will be mentored by Coon and faculty and graduate students in NMSU's agronomy and horticulture department. At the end of the session, students will write a research paper, make an oral presentation and complete a scientific poster about their results. Two of the 10 students will be selected to return to NMSU next February to present their results at the international 2004 New Mexico Chile Conference.

NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute is one of the world's leading research centers for chile, said Paul Bosland, a chile breeder with NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station and the director of institute. Students will gain first hand experience in NMSU's genetic breeding and variety development efforts, as well as disease and insect control methods.

In addition, the incoming summer scholars will be able to review development of colorful new lines of ornamental chile peppers, as well as draw on NMSU's massive chile demonstration garden, which has more than 150 varieties. The facility at the Fabian Garcia Research Center is one of the largest public chile gardens in the world.

Once picked and processed, chile is New Mexico's most valuable vegetable, worth more than $200 million annually