09:51 AM

Two CSTEM Professors Awarded Grant to Support Science Students

Two professors in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Cal State San Marcos have received a grant of almost $1 million from the National Science Foundation that will support the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students in chemistry and biochemistry. 

The grant of $999,875, which covers five years, was awarded to Robert Iafe, an associate professor of chemistry, and Paul Jasien, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry. It’s part of the NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income, academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. 

Over its five-year duration, the project will fund scholarships of up to four years to 20 full-time students in three cohorts. Scholarship recipients will be embedded in a 30-student Chemistry and Biochemistry Targeted Learning Community (CB-TLC). The project aims to increase student persistence in STEM fields by linking scholarships with effective support activities that include a cohort model for coursework; peer, graduate student, faculty and professional mentoring; and academic and professional workshops. 

“We are beyond excited at the opportunities that the CB-TLC 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, CB-TLC 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, CB-TLC members will be mentored by graduate student and industry professionals as they start to develop specific career goals. Some students in the CB-TLC 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 CB-TLC; 

  • retain at least 80% of scholarship recipients in the major after the first year and at least half of recipients after the sixth term via new support activities; 

  • leverage previous and ongoing support and experience, and;  

  • assess the effectiveness of intensive mentoring on the CB-TLC students.  

“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.”