NSF Awards Canisius $1 Million

December 7, 2016


Canisius College is the recipient of a five year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will be used to support the Canisius Science Scholars program, which provides financial, academic and social support to students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.  The grant will provide more than $700,000 in scholarship money, beginning in fall 2017, for students interested in the study of biology, environmental science, and animal behavior, ecology and conservation (ABEC).  The remaining funds will support the creation of a science-based learning community, the development of instructional seminars and workshops, and discipline-specific conference travel. 

“Canisius College has a tradition of offering a high-quality education to students in the natural sciences,” says Andrew Stewart, PhD, assistant professor of biology and principal investigator (PI) on the grant. “This grant from the National Science Foundation will help ensure that tradition continues by providing the support necessary to help academically-gifted, financially-disadvantaged undergraduate science majors make the transition from science students to scientists.”

The Canisius Science Scholars program will not only support traditional four-year undergraduate students but also those who transfer to Canisius after completing two-year degrees at community colleges, which is an increasingly common occurrence, according to Stewart. 

“Ultimately, our goal is to increase the number of biology, environmental science and ABEC students who graduate and transition either directly to a biological-sciences-related career or into graduate programs in the sciences,” adds Stewart.

To achieve this goal, the Canisius Science Scholars program will introduce a student-centered learning community, which will include coursework, social activities, student-faculty interactions outside the formal class setting, as well as academic and career mentoring.

A “BIO Boot Camp” will also be established as part of the Canisius Science Scholars program.  The purpose of the camp will be to introduce all incoming undergraduate science students to a set of skills that will aid in success within their majors.  These skills include note taking, reading comprehension and data interpretation.  

Additionally, Canisius Science Scholars will be required to participate in seminar courses, during which professors will guide them through the process of conducting, presenting and publishing scientific research.  These seminar courses will also aid students in exploring career opportunities outside of traditional health-related fields and assist students in their preparation of application materials, whether for employment or graduate school.  

The Canisius Science Scholars program will support scholarships for three cohorts of students, which will include traditional and transfer students.  Traditional students will be able to apply for three years of funding beginning in their sophomore years.  Transfer students from community colleges will be added to each cohort in their junior years and are eligible for at least two years of scholarship support. The program will fund at least 18 traditional students and at least 12 transfer students.    

Finally, the NSF grant will support formal research on the effectiveness of grant-funded activities.  Programmatic assessment and determination of which program components should be expanded as best practices will be provided by Kristin Finn, PhD, professor of teacher education, and James Donnelly, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Counseling & Human Services. 

In addition to Andrew Stewart, principal investigator on the grant, co-PIs include Sara Morris, PhD, associate vice president for academic affairs; Sue Margulis, PhD, associate professor of ABEC and biology, and chair of ABEC; and Jon O’Brien, PhD, assistant professor of biology and environmental science.  The group was aided during its grant writing process by the IMPACT Center for Research, Innovation and Scholarship, Christopher Lopata, PsyD, professor of teacher education and Mary Ann Langlois, director of sponsored programs. 

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense. With an annual budget of $7.2 billion, the NSF is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by U.S. colleges and universities in such fields as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences. 

Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.