S-STEM awards sustain science students in Illinois
With a big boost from a specialized National Science Foundation (NSF) program, SIU-Carbondale students of natural history and biology will be able to complete their education courtesy of over $1.7 million in grant funds.
The NSF created its S-STEM program for the Upper Delta Region Biodiversity Scholarship Program not only to fund research but also to support two specific student groups or approximately 120 “consecutive cohorts” of undergraduate and graduate students, SIU’s Kurt Neubig, an assistant professor of plant biology, said.
S-STEM refers to scholarships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Upper Delta Region comprises states adjoining the Mississippi River basin — Southern Illinois and portions of Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.
“We hope to increase retention of majors in the biological sciences, especially from underrepresented groups and also create a collaborative learning environment across the three universities that are participating,” Neubig said. “Many students never get the opportunity to pursue or finish their undergraduate or graduate career because of financial difficulty.”
Arkansas State University and Murray State University are SIU’s partners in developing the program. The collaboration serves to expand the realm of potential study topics with accessibility to many researchers on multiple campuses. With the financial support, students can concentrate on exploring evolution, biodiversity, identification of species and similar avenues.
Additionally, the incentive will help many first-generation college students explore a geographic region rich in diverse plant and animal life, utilizing field research and applying knowledge directly to their studies.