Entrance to California State University San Marcos. Photo by Chris Stone

Two Cal State San Marcos professors received a grant of nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation that will support low-income students in the sciences, the university announced Tuesday.

The $999,875 grant — which will fund scholarships of up to four years to 20 full-time students in three cohorts — covers five years and was awarded to Robert Iafe, an associate professor of chemistry, and Paul Jasien, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry. It is earmarked to be used for the “retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students in chemistry and biochemistry.”

The money is part of the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income, academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields.

Recipients will be embedded in a 30-student chemistry and biochemistry targeted learning community. The project aims to increase student persistence in STEM fields by linking scholarships with support activities that include a model for coursework, a mentoring program and academic and professional workshops.

“We are beyond excited at the opportunities that the [community] will create for our students,” Iafe said. “This is the first scholarship program specifically designed to support chemistry and biochemistry students at CSUSM.”

After their second year, students will be encouraged to participate in program interventions such as research, internships, attendance at professional conferences and career/graduate school application workshops. Starting in the third year, scholarship recipients will be mentored by graduate student and industry professionals as they start to develop specific career goals. Some students will themselves become peer mentors for students in subsequent cohorts, helping to develop a sustainable mentoring community of peer, faculty and professionals.

The primary objectives of the project are to recruit and enroll 30 students in each of the first three years into the targeted learning community, retain at least 80% of scholarship recipients in the major after the first year and at least half of recipients after the sixth term.

“This project builds on a previously successful small-scale pilot program designed to build student community,” Jasien said. “The program’s activities will be valuable in identifying and supporting high-achieving students who have financial need.”

–City News Service

Show comments