FAU Receives $620,000 NSF Grant for STEM Retention ProgramDonna Chamely-Wiik, Ph.D., assistant dean for undergraduate research and associate scientist of chemistry, who is leading the project for FAU (center), is pictured with recent chemistry graduates.Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic UniversityFlorida Atlantic University has received a $620,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to work in collaboration with the University of Central Florida and Western Carolina University to increase the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM undergraduates. This collaboration will result in the creation of a consortium to directly address the national need to promote STEM education and to develop a retention model for increasing the number of STEM undergraduate students who will more than likely advance into graduate education and professional careers in the sciences.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are growing faster than any other U.S. sector and available jobs in the field are set to increase 17 percent between 2014 and 2024, while non-STEM employment will grow just 12 percent. Technology companies alone will need to fill more than 650,000 new jobs by 2018.

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“Working in collaboration, our three institutions will be able to combine our expertise and resources to build upon existing programs as well as develop a new training model that other institutions can replicate to promote and expand higher education for underrepresented groups in STEM,” said Donna Chamely-Wiik, PhD, assistant dean for undergraduate research and associate scientist of chemistry, who is leading the project for FAU. FAU’s other co-investigators include Daniel Meeroff, PhD, associate chair and professor in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Evelyn Frazier, PhD, in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. 

This five-year, $1.8 million NSF-funded collaborative project will impact a total of 512 undergraduate students at all three institutions and will focus on training them in undergraduate research through structured coursework and direct research experiences. In addition, a number of graduate students will serve as research mentors, providing them with invaluable experience in training and mentoring and preparing them to potentially become faculty members.  

FAU will adapt and implement UCF’s “Learning Environment and Academic Research Network (LEARN™), which supports first-year students who live together in a learning community to take courses together, and work as research apprentices in faculty laboratories. Chamely-Wiik and her team also will further the project and adapt it for upper-division transfer STEM students.

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“What makes this program so unique is the creation of a community of scholars and a cohort of peers who have similar interests and goals,” said Daniel C. Flynn, PhD, vice president for research at FAU. “Dr. Chamely-Wiik’s work also will catalyze the development of an undergraduate research culture among the faculty and the student body.”

Kimberly Schneider, director of UCF’s Office of Undergraduate Research, is the leader of the project for UCF and founder of the freshman L.E.A.R.N. model, and Alison Morrison-Shetlar, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of biology, is the lead for WCU.

FAU’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (OURI) provides resources and support to FAU's undergraduate students and faculty involved in research, scholarship, and creative activity. OURI was developed to support FAU's Quality Enhancement Plan and assists all faculty and students.