DBJ: Wright State wins $1M grant to expand undergraduate research, fund scholarships


Ashlea Kennedy, an undergraduate Applying Scientific Knowledge research student at Wright State, works in the aquarium room. The College of Science and Mathematics received a $1 million grant to expand the research program. (Contributed photos)

Wright State University has landed a nearly $1 million grant to expand its undergraduate research capabilities.

The five-year, $997,589 grant — awarded by the National Science Foundation — will fund scholarships, programming and research activities for the Applying Scientific Knowledge program at the university’s College of Science and Mathematics.

“The idea is to increase retention, academic success and work/career advancement with the notion of providing students who have financial need with scholarships to perform in the sciences,” said Jason Deibel, who chairs the Department of Physics at WSU and helped direct efforts to win the grant.

The ASK program at Wright State began in fall 2016, with about 10 students going through the program each year. A few have received summer fellowships, but no scholarships were available.

“I think the scholarships are going to attract a larger amount of students to the program,” Deibel said. “And it’s going to give a lot more attention to the program.”

Of the nearly $1 million in grant funding, $630,000 will be allotted for scholarships. That is expected to fund 42 students with annual scholarships of up to $5,000 a piece. Each year for three years, 14 students will receive scholarships. Five of the students will have the opportunity to have a paid summer research experience from the fund.

Efforts to win a grant for the ASK program had been underway for three years.

“I wanted to get long-term funding for this, or at least something where we got an injection of funds where we could really ramp it up,” Deibel said. “The idea of injecting scholarship money into this was something we wanted to do.”

The traditional model of undergraduate research has students being mentored individually by a faculty researcher. This model can be an expensive and inefficient, and is often a tough sell to granting agencies, Wright State officials say.

Under the ASK model, undergraduate students first take a research-methods course and then do research in teams. Each student takes part for three semesters.

Deibel said working in teams allow mores undergraduate students to gain research experience than under previous models.

“We know this will have a good impact,” he said.

Previous and current research projects in the ASK program have involved the study of binary star systems, the use of gold nanoparticles in anti-cancer treatments, physiological responses, imaging using terahertz technology, environmental issues and other topics.

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