Researchers at Clemson University have received a grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study.

The $1,989,621 grant, "CU-STEP: Enhancing the Undergraduate Experience through Research and Curriculum Development," will recruit and prepare first generation students for college and help undergraduates to remain in, and graduate from, STEM programs.

Barbara Speziale , associate dean of academic outreach and summer academic programs and professor in biological sciences, is the principal investigator of the project. "This grant is the result of collaboration between two of the university's five colleges, and three of its centers and institutes," she said. "This project emphasizes the university's commitment to undergraduate education."

In addition to its focus on recruiting and retaining first generation college students, Speziale said the project also will enhance the preparation of secondary school students and increase their interest in attending Clemson. Some of the activities proposed to increase the number of students prepared for STEM disciplines at Clemson include enrichment programs for high school students, proactive mentoring for STEM freshmen, undergraduate research and service learning, and curriculum modifications. The time is right for an increased focus on STEM disciplines, according to Speziale, who said an increase in the number of students in STEM programs will support the rapidly rising sector of biotechnology and other STEM-intensive industries in South Carolina. The goal is to develop a technically competent workforce and build the leadership to expand these industries in the state and nation.

Clemson University's College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering and Science, in conjunction with the South Carolina DNA Learning Center, Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education, Institute of Modeling and Simulation Applications and the Office of Undergraduate Studies, will partner to develop, direct, implement and evaluate a comprehensive strategy for the program. Co-principal investigators on the project are Bob Ballard , professor of biological sciences; Calvin L. Williams , professor of mathematical sciences; Jeff Appling , professor of chemistry and associate dean; Matt Ohland , professor of general engineering; Steve Stevenson , professor of computer sciences; John Wagner , professor of geological sciences; and Sue Lasser , director of the Program for Engineering Enrichment and Retention.

Author: Calvin L. Williams, Mathematical Sciences-Clemson University, Clemson University
Last updated: November 5, 2008
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