Kentucky NSF EPSCoR Supports Summer Student Training at ERTL

At the University of Kentucky, the Environmental Research Training Laboratories (ERTL) are training the next generation of scientific researchers.

Established in 2002 by a grant from Kentucky NSF EPSCoR, ERTL’s mission is to help students through personalized, hands-on training and access to state-of-the-art laboratory equipment for organic, inorganic and microbial analyses.

ERTL offers mentorship and training to students from UK and Kentucky State University every summer through Kentucky NSF EPSCoR’s Peer-Led Team Learning program.

“I think we often think that science and engineering is a little bit scary and rigid, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Megan Combs, ERTL Research Facility Manager. “We are mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers, and I think that leaving a positive impact is critical. We want to make research approachable, research can be for anyone.”

Rather than running students through a strict, programmed science curriculum, ERTL encourages students to develop their own research project from the ground up, allowing them to pursue the subjects that interest them the most.

“Going to small college, we don’t have everything that we have here at ERTL,” said Demetrius Davis, a junior at Kentucky State University. “I had the opportunity to use new equipment that I’ve never used before, and now I get to take that experience back to K-State.”

Vanetta Graves, a junior at Kentucky State University, observed the impact that her experience at ERTL has had on her future career plans, “I now know that research is where I want to be. This was a valuable first experience for me, and I can see this being the first of many research experiences.”

ERTL also hosted UK senior Laira Kelly this summer. Kelly said, “I’ve decided that I’m going to go to grad school because of this research project. I want to get more involved in research as the year goes on and maybe do research for other professors at UK or other universities.”

For more information about Environmental Research Training Laboratories, visit