(Courtesy of Delaware State University)
Five years, $1.85 million. That’s the length and sum of the grant the graduate biological sciences program at Delaware State University will receive, thanks to the federal government’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).
The grant comes as part of the National Institute of Health’s RISE, or Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program, which covers NIGMS. It’s the latest in a series of federal grants awarded to the historically Black university that will help to increase representation of Black students in STEM.
Young-Hwan Kim, an associate professor of biological sciences (and one of the researchers at the forefront of the grant’s acquisition), said RISE was created to support the sustainability of graduate research programs.
“[The program was designed] to improve the overall graduate experience for biomedical graduate students at DSU,” he said. “[This is done] by increasing the depth and breadth of scientific and professional skills, development activities and raising students’ awareness of the full range of academic careers.”
The enhancement of the university’s curriculum will be showcased in a variety of ways. Kim said the department will implement a few new courses, including a thesis/dissertation writing workshop, a two-level research course, and a quantitative lab class, all of which are designed to strengthen the professional, communication and quantitative skills students need to go into the field.
Other uses for the grant will include the upkeep of mentoring partnerships, along with travel stipends for students attending professional research events.
The grant should help increase graduation rates as well. Kim said with the support of RISE, the number of M.S., neuroscience graduates should double, from an average of two to four students per year. These numbers should also increase at the doctoral level, with the aim of ensuring of 90 precent of the students enrolled in the neuroscience program receive their degree.
Obtaining the grant was a team effort. Kim said he, along with biology professor Melissa Harrington and many others in the department often write education and research proposals to the NIH and National Science Foundation.
And it pays off. The historically Black university was awarded nearly $300,000 from the NSF for a genetic research project back in March, and just over $500,000 from NIH in 2015 for the establishment of an undergraduate, neuroscience research program.
This particular grant will cater specifically to the needs of the graduate biology and neuroscience programs. Kim said it will have the biggest impact on the latter, with the funding increasing the school’s ties to the Delaware Center for Neuroscience Research.
With more funding comes stronger research, and with stronger research comes better programs. The grant will intensify the progressiveness of the science department of DSU. “With the RISE grant, we can expand our neuroscience and biology program to more than double in terms of the number of graduate students and publications from our department and program. Therefore, we will achieve a big leap in quality and size of our programs within five years,” Kim said.
The grant will focus on improving the department’s training and curriculum.