Marilyn Hart readily admits that, in Minnesota, no one can match the U when it comes to academic research. “They’re the big gun, ” she says. But they’re not the only game in town.

That’s one reason that Hart, a biology professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, decided to turn the State Capitol rotunda into a kind of science fair on Wednesday — to make the point, she said, that all across the state, public colleges have become breeding grounds for cutting-edge science.

“I do not think the public realizes the level of scholarly activity that goes on at our campuses,” said Hart, who organized the display on behalf of the 31 institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. In fact, she said, even two-year community colleges have gotten into the act in ways they rarely did before.

Five years ago, she said, “it was the exception” for community colleges to offer students a chance to work on research projects. Now, “it’s becoming the norm.”

It isn’t just science projects, either. “Research is not shaking test tubes,” she said. “It is theater and art and history.”

Some of the best projects from a dozen community colleges and state universities were picked for the Minnesota Undergraduate Scholars poster show Wednesday.

Among them:

• A study of the gene function of bacteria, at North Hennepin Community College.

•A literary analysis of the graveyard scene in “Hamlet,” from Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

• An examination of small mammals at Grand Forks Air Force Base, from Bemidji State University.

• Bone density in mice, at MSU Mankato.

• And a study of the pseudo-health effects of diet soda, from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

These kinds of research projects, Hart says, turn students into scholars and help build skills they can use for a lifetime.

“We know that this drives success, ” she said. “It may sound Pollyannaish, [but] it transforms lives. It truly does.”