Albright College receives National Science Foundation Grant to fund STEM scholarships

Albright College has been awarded more than $627,000 from the National Science Foundation to fund scholarships for students pursuing STEM majors who are interested in how these fields apply to the environment.

The National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (NSF S-STEM) grant will fund the new Albright College Environmentally Oriented Sciences (ACES) scholarship program and will facilitate underserved and financially needy students’ entry into and persistence in the sciences. More than $522,000 of the award will support annual, progressive scholarships for 33 Albright students, or 11 per class, for the classes of 2019 through 2021. The first scholarships will be awarded to freshmen in fall 2015. Each student will receive a total of $22,500 over his or her four years.

The NSF S-STEM grant also provides funding for student support, including tutoring, monthly meetings, a speaker’s series to bring industry practitioners to campus, and retreats for recipients to focus on cohort building and honing academic skills. Associate professor of biology Stephen Mech, Ph.D., one of four Albright professors directing the ACES program, said such measures will help STEM students tackle demanding courses and aid retention in these majors.

To be eligible for the grant, the NSF requires students pursue STEM majors. Albright added the requirement that recipients also be interested in marrying their STEM major with environmentally related issues. The College, said Mech, has a large and growing contingent of environmental science majors in addition to the traditional biology and chemistry majors. “This is a good way to tie this group together,” he said.

The NSF prohibits the grant from being used to support students entering medical fields. Mech believes this provision presents an opportunity to show STEM majors that they don’t have to pursue pre-med to have successful and fulfilling careers in the sciences.“We want to try to overcome the perception of incoming freshmen and their parents that the only thing to do to make money in the sciences is medical,” said Mech, noting robust fields such as environmental management and hydrology as potential careers.

The ACES program is under the direction of Mech; assistant biology professor Bryce Brylawski, Ph.D.; associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Christian Hamann, Ph.D.; and assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Christopher R. Graves, Ph.D.

For Albright College