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Walsh Awarded NSF Grant Benefiting Chemistry Students

What's New, 2014-07-25

Award Marks First NSF Grant in Walsh History

Walsh University has been awarded its first National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for almost $600,000 to fund scholarships for students interested in pursuing the field of chemistry.  With an initial award of $75,616, NSF has pledged continued support of the program for an additional $518,137 over a five-year period.

The highly competitive Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) grant was awarded to the Walsh Division of Mathematics and Sciences to fund the creation of the new STAR Chemistry Program: “Inspiring, Educating, and Preparing Young Science Talent for an American Ready Workforce.”

“NSF grants are very competitive, and Walsh University is honored to receive one.  It is a strong endorsement of our faculty and the quality of our programs. The University has always had a tradition of excellence, and in recent years we have renewed our commitment to extend that tradition more deeply into the areas of scholarship and research,” said Walsh University President Richard Jusseaume.  “A very important part of Walsh’s mission is to promote academic excellence and close student-teacher interactions. The NSF grant along with initiatives such as our new Center for Science Innovation will help to reinforce that mission while also providing students interested in pursuing careers in the sciences the resources they require for success.”

NSF funding will help to enhance Walsh strategies, services, and partnerships focused on increasing chemistry major recruitment, retention, graduation, and career advancement among academically talented students with financial need. The grant will enable Walsh to award 16 four-year scholarships to eligible chemistry students, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per year, depending on each student’s level of unmet financial need and merit.

Another important component of the STAR program will be the creation of the new STAR scholars learning community for chemistry students. Over the five-year grant period, two groups of eight students, the first in fall 2015 and the next in fall 2016, will live and take classes within a designated learning community and participate in activities that will strengthen their self-identity as chemists.

“The S-STEM grant will serve as a catalyst to create momentum for what we hope will be a stellar chemistry major cohort. This initiative will move Walsh to the next level in reputation and performance relative to the quality of our chemistry graduates and our community involvement,” said Division of Mathematics and Sciences Chair Michael Dunphy, Ph.D. “What this entails is a restructuring of a traditional chemistry major to make it more flexible and market appropriate. We will be able to provide more choices for our students and focus on internships to help prepare students to enter the workforce.”

The STAR scholars will benefit from Walsh’s redesigned chemistry curriculum that addresses the existing gap in skills needed by chemistry graduates and those identified by local industry partners. As a part of this new curriculum, all Walsh chemistry majors participate in an internship, a three-semester integrated laboratory experience, and a four-year Chemistry Careers Seminar. Held every second week, the Career Series brings together faculty, students and industry partners to speak about current industry issues and career opportunities for students.

“We realized we couldn’t just create a Career Series, we had to align our curriculum to real jobs available in NE Ohio. Companies want experience as well as a bachelor’s degree,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry and Walsh’s NSF grant Principal Investigator Peter Tandler, Ph.D. “Our new curriculum integrates the American Chemical Society criteria for a certified degree with coursework and internships that produce graduates with expertise that fits our local workforce needs. STAR scholars will take courses that tie directly to regional industries such as synthetic and metal material, environmental and green, and fuels and energy chemistry.”

In order to attract eligible candidates and broaden participation, the NSF grant will also help to fund a comprehensive recruitment plan that involves interacting with students at high schools, on-campus science workshops, and regional science fairs.

Through grant facilitation by Walsh’s Director of Grants and Sponsored Research Rachel Hammel, the STAR Program is under the direction of Walsh chemistry faculty members Dr. Peter Tandler, Dr. Amy Heston, Dr. Neil Walsh, Dr. Michael Dunphy and Dr. Nisreen A. Nusair.

NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950. With an annual budget of $7.2 billion (FY 2014), NSF is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.