Jackson State’s Department of Biology receives nearly $400K grant

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Department of Biology at Jackson State University has been awarded a $399,958 grant from the National Science Foundation that will help underrepresented students enter graduate schools and STEM careers.

The three-year multifaceted grant is called “Enhancement of Jackson State University Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (JSU-CURE) Program in the Biological Sciences.”

Dr. Tim Turner, principal investigator and chair of the JSU Department of Biology, said, “JSU-CURE will enhance our students’ competitive advantage and, in turn, increase the pool of prospective candidates from underrepresented populations and diversify the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Turner said biology students in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology will receive hands-on research experience, and some will work alongside JSU scientists for tutoring, mentoring and, potentially, building lifelong professional relationships.

The grant also will provide (1) continuous support and guidance from the JSU-CURE Leadership Team; (2) redesigned and new courses such as bioinformatics; (3) state-of-the-art research equipment and supplies; and (4) outreach activities for students.

Because of the future competitiveness, the JSU-CURE program aims to answer the call for more diverse STEM leaders by preparing students on three levels:

  • Educationally: Understand and apply biological concepts; use technology to explore new fields of biology; develop relationships with mentors/advisers; gain insight into the research process; enhance problem-solving skills by applying concepts to “real life” situations; promote and encourage scientific investigation (e.g., research planning, scientific modeling and data analysis); and receive exposure to and acceptance in academic and post-graduate studies and careers
  • Professionally: Increase students’ knowledge of biology; build interdepartmental collaborations and expertise; provide exposure to various research careers; help with team-building and network opportunities; and develop research and science skills
  • Personally: Enhance confidence in excelling in STEM disciplines; inspire involvement in community service; develop critical, analytical and independent thinking; meet challenges and develop standards of excellence; gain scientific confidence; and interact with people from different cultures/experiences for greater global perspectives

Also, JSU-CURE will improve the biology curriculum by adding a new course in bioinformatics. The interdisciplinary science field combines biology, computer science, information engineering, mathematics and statistics. Each of these areas will allow students to critically examine, interpret and extract useful results from large amounts of raw biological data.

The grant program will recruit eight rising JSU sophomore and/or junior biology majors who will become the first cohort of CURE Scholars. In the labs, CURE Scholars will perform experiments, collect and record data and prepare oral and/or poster presentations to at least one local or national scientific conference. And, during the summer, the scholars will begin their two-year, eight-week lab research roles and be mentored by biology faculty.

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