Muhlenberg receives National Science Foundation Grant

News Image "Scholars in Math and Science" program will recruit and retain students in the biological sciences

 Friday, April 10, 2015 10:15 AM

Photo to announce 2015 NSF grant to continue SIMS program funding.

Pictured above: Kwame Quaye '13, Muhlenberg graduate and participant in Muhlenberg's Scholars in Math and Science program.

Muhlenberg College has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), in the amount of $607,786 over five years, that will support "Scholars in Math and Science: A Program to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Students in the Biological Sciences," under the direction of Mary Byrne, lecturer of biology, Erika V. Iyengar, associate professor of biology, and Paul Meier, associate professor of biology.

With this initiative, Muhlenberg College will recruit students from underrepresented groups and prepare them to take leadership roles in STEM fields after graduation. The Scholars in Math and Science (SIMS) program aims to increase the diversity of students who enter college seeking a major within the biological sciences. Two cohorts of 8 students each will be recruited. The proposal builds upon successful program elements of a previous STEM grant directed by Meier and Don Shive, professor of chemistry. Program elements new to this proposal are designed to develop academic and science skills, create a learning community that lasts from freshman to senior year and develop student leadership through activities on campus and in public outreach.

“We are very excited to receive further funding from NSF to support our SIMS program for another four years”, said Paul Meier, co-director of the SIMS program. “It was a great pleasure to work with the previous SIMS students in helping them develop their skills in the sciences as they pursued their goals of careers in the sciences. All of the previous students have graduated from Muhlenberg and are pursuing graduate programs in the health sciences or biological sciences.”

The program will enhance the educational experiences of other students who work with these SIMS students, and the enhanced classes designed for SIMS students emphasizing science process rather than content will be available to other students. It has been found that such enhanced experiences will increase retention of all science students. Furthermore, these SIMS students will participate in recruitment of additional underrepresented students, and lead to a long-lasting increase in diversity. As the SIMS students are involved in science education outreach activities at the local science center and in public schools, they will provide a diversity of faces to local science efforts, inspiring younger generations of under-represented groups in Allentown (the third largest city in Pennsylvania) to pursue STEM disciplines. The results of the project will be reported in The Journal of Science Teaching or other appropriate venues.

"The SIMS scholarship certainly provided me a great amount of support during my time at Muhlenberg," said Nancy Suarez ‘13, a biology major with minors in creative writing and public health. “Medical school is a huge financial burden, and extra financial help during my undergraduate years was extremely appreciated, especially coming from an underprivileged background. The scholarship helped me to commit to a major in biology, something that may have been difficult for me, coming from a high school with less rigorous opportunities to engage in the sciences. The extra push from the NSF-SIMS Program and strong, rigorous coursework at Muhlenberg has certainly been integral components in my path to becoming a physician.”

The mission of Muhlenberg College's biology department is to offer a comprehensive program designed to provide students with an opportunity to study the diversity of life and the mechanisms governing life processes in a manner that is integrated with the broader goals of a liberal arts education.

The NSF is an independent U.S. government agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through research programs and education projects.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year college located in the Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Muhlenberg offers programs in the liberal arts and sciences, along with selected pre-professional studies and a number of interdisciplinary majors.