North Idaho College

INBRE: High-impact practices in the sciences at North Idaho College

In 2003, North Idaho College (NIC) Microbiology Instructor and Coordinator of the INBRE program, Rhena Cooper, helped establish an internship program between NIC and working labs throughout Northern Idaho. The program was developed and funded as part of a $16.5 million National Health Institutes (NIH) grant involving 10 colleges and universities from across the state of Idaho and the Boise VA Medical Center.

The grant is the third major award for the Idaho Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), which was founded in 2001. Since the inception of INBRE, 175 NIC students have conducted biomedical research through the program. Regional industry partnerships have grown to include engineering firms, environmental testing laboratories, government entities, non-governmental organizations, regional healthcare facilities, pharmaceutical partners, and local wineries. NIC is proud to be the first Idaho network institution to develop a successful, ongoing industry internship program that provides an entrance into research opportunities and health-related careers.

The INBRE program at NIC consists of three avenues for students to enter the educational pipeline.Scholars participate in a two-week research immersion. Interns are paired with one of 14 different regional industry laboratories. The industry labs take entry-level students and provide 400 hours of bench work, which is time-equivalent to 10 college-level laboratory classes. The interns are paid a living wage, which enables them to enroll in college-level work. They are highly successful due to this “learn and earn” arrangement. Fellows are awarded 10-week research positions at a research-intensive university. It provides a perfect program for NIC students who are ready to transfer. They are awarded laboratory positions for the summer at their new institutions. Studies show that a major stumbling block for community college undergraduates is the transfer process to a four-year institution; these paid positions ensure that NIC students are not strangers in their new academic home the following fall. Over the years, numerous success stories have surfaced as a result of these high-impact practices and through the efforts and motivation of the professors and students involved in INBRE.

  • Former North Idaho College (NIC) student Dr. Ingrid Fruth was NIC’s first INBRE intern. Dr. Fruth began at NIC as a nursing student. After earning an associate’s degree at NIC, Dr. Fruth went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, and a Ph.D. in microbiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry. INBRE supported every pivotal point in my journey, Fruth said.
  • Veronica Hendricks began at NIC as a business student. After taking a science class, she discovered her passion for research. INBRE kept opening doors for me. I did not know what was on the other side, but I walked through every door, she said. Hendricks completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.
  • Mason Fredrickson came to NIC planning to complete a certificate in the health professions. He now has a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and works for a molecular technology firm. He said, North Idaho College and INBRE changed my life!
  • Dr. Tom Croschere, M.D., worked as a miner and came to NIC knowing that he wanted to practice medicine. My participation in INBRE helped me integrate various class disciplines, which developed my skills as a scientist, he said.

NIH support has changed the culture on NIC’s campus. Students are motivated to reach a higher education level than they previously realized possible, faculty and staff have higher expectations for student achievement, and administrators and community members are proud of improved partnerships. The North Idaho College INBRE family has an exceptional esprit de corps.

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