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By Caitlin Jennings, Communications Specialist, Society for Science & the Public
Valdine McLean, who was selected from a national pool of entrants as a Society Fellow in 2009, recently established the Great Basin Coop Testing Laboratory. The laboratory will serve as both a community and education resource to residents of Northern Nevada, and Valdine is in the process of getting funding to support building the facility.
The new lab will help students in the area, who currently have limited access to research facilities 90 miles away in Reno, conduct their own research projects. “Students will have access to local state of the art instrumentation for any analysis of anything that they would like to do,” Valdine says. “Research can be done at any level of sophistication, but if students want to be competitive and/or make breakthrough discoveries – they need to have access to the technologies to help them do their analysis.”
Valdine’s work will also help the local farmers and, as revenue is generated by the students’ research, they will receive scholarships to help them gain additional science training. “The laboratory will be completely set up to serve students meeting this rural valley, and basically all of northern and central Nevada’s, farming needs. The students will be able to analyze their crops to make economical and sustainable decisions: such as when to cut their hay versus quality and market, or which crops to plant for diversification as climate and soil conditions change,” Valdine says. Right now, farmers must send their samples to California and wait 5-10 days before making educated decisions. “I have farmers come to me daily saying they wish we were [already] up and going.”
Valdine started her journey to create this resource with her application to become a Society Fellow. While at the Fellows Institute in Washington, DC, in 2009, the Society helped connect Valdine with meetings in Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office and at the National Science Foundation. “In addition to these very informative and encouraging meetings, the Society Fellows Institute also provided us training, development, and advice on our Program Management Plans (PMPs). This instrument proved to be critical in developing a community interest meeting, the filings for local, state, and federal paperwork, and the by-laws adopted by my board of directors,” Valdine says, adding that the PMP is also helping in the grant writing process.
Valdine hopes her nonprofit will bolster science and math education locally, regionally, and maybe even nationally. “We aren’t active in pursuing individuals who are curious, problem solvers, who have imagination and creativity. I truly believe if we want to do things better, we have to do it different. The laboratory will provide service to the community [and] at the same time foster students to pursue scientific endeavors, majors, and/or careers by allowing those with the desire to create, explore, and imagine the ability to use real tools and financially support them in their efforts. We could be a working model that makes a difference.”