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Social science

NC State will have a lot to be proud of when the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences opens its Nature Research Center (NRC) this April. NC State faculty have key leadership roles at the center, and the new facility should create exciting opportunities for faculty and students alike.

“The overarching goal of the center is to blend new technologies with real collections of the existing museum to inspire the next generation of scientists,” says Dr. Meg Lowman, director of the NRC. “NC State and the museum have a shared mission of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for diverse audiences.”

Lowman should know – since she’s also a research professor in NC State’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Meg Lowman (right) shows a young museum visitor that nothing bugs her. Watch for more on Lowman in the spring 2012 issue of NC State magazine.

In fact, four of the leadership positions at the NRC are filled by scientists with faculty appointments at NC State – from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“The center hopes to be a home for both faculty and students of NC State,” Lowman says. Graduate and undergraduate students will have internship opportunities at the NRC, as well as having the chance to participate in research projects underway at the center. Students interested in museums and scientific collections as a career will also be able to get training and experience in the field.

“I hope to have a steady stream of students working in my lab at the NRC,” says Dr. Roland Kays, director of the NRC’s biodiversity lab – and research associate professor in the College of Natural Resources. “I’d like to see students sharing their findings and excitement with museum visitors.”

Lowman says the NRC may also help NC State faculty secure additional research funding. Because the NRC is focused on communicating with the public about science, NC State faculty may be able to leverage the NRC’s resources to address outreach requirements included in grant applications.

But while the NRC will support NC State’s missions of educating students and engaging in research, it’s important to remember that it will also be a lot of fun. Among the many exhibits and activities, there will be a 10,000-gallon aquarium (including sharks!) and opportunities for visitors to take part in hands-on research projects.

The NRC will be opening April 20 – mark your calendars – but Lowman won’t have much time to rest on her laurels. She’s already gearing up to take NC State students on a field course to the Amazon this summer.