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NSF grant will fund STEM scholarships at WKU

NSF grant will fund STEM scholarships at WKU

WKU will use a grant from the National Science Foundation to fund a five-year scholarship program in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.

The $616,669 grant will fund the Biotechnology S-STEM Program, which will provide scholarships to 20 students with majors in agriculture, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science or math and an interest in biotechnology. They will be divided between 12 freshmen and eight transfer students from a two-year community college from high schools and community college partners located in geographically underrepresented counties with significant educational or economic need.

“The S-STEM program at WKU will enable us to provide significant financial support to academically talented students who are interested in a career in the STEM disciplines,” said Kevin Williams, an associate professor of chemistry and one of the grant’s principal investigators. “The financial support combined with the opportunities to engage in research, internship, and targeted professional development should promote better student retention and greater likelihood for success after graduation.”

Partnerships are a key component of the program, Dr. Williams said.

“We are excited to work not only with partners within the university, but also to reach out to regional high schools and community colleges along with potential industry partners who may provide internship and employment opportunities for these students,” he said.

Students will be selected based on a combination of academic potential, financial need and statements of career goals, Dr. Williams said, and the first freshman deadline is Jan. 15.

Program objectives include graduating at least 80 percent of the participants in a STEM major within five years (three for transfer students), enrolling at least 60 percent in a biotechnology-training course, and engaging at least 60 percent in mentored undergraduate research for at least one year.

Evaluations and student interviews will help improve the program each year and enable WKU to adapt new strategies for recruiting and retaining students, especially in the STEM disciplines, Dr. Williams said.

Other principal investigators include Audra Jennings in the Office of Scholar Development, Cathleen Webb in Chemistry and Shivendra Sahi in Biology.

Contact: Kevin Williams, (270) 745-8899.

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