UWA receives $609,000 NSF grant for biology students

LIVINGSTON — The University of West Alabama has launched a project that will enhance biology learning opportunities through a $609,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

UWA’s proposal for its BOSS project, Biology Opportunities and Scholarships for Success, was among 376 submissions nationwide. Of these, only 90 proposals, less than 25 percent, were awarded grant funding.

The UWA BOSS project aims to award 16 scholarships, in two cohorts of eight, for four years to recruit, retain, and graduate academically talented yet financially needy undergraduate students majoring in biology. The first cohort of the fall 2014 has started the program. The eight selected UWA BOSS scholars are from six different Alabama Counties with an outstanding high school academic record. (Photo attached)

The NSF, through its division of undergraduate education, offers Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM). The grants are offered to institutions of higher education to support scholarships for academically talented students demonstrating financial need, enabling them to enter the STEM workforce or STEM graduate school following completion of an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate-level degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics disciplines.

UWA BOSS will provide more than monetary support for student participants. As part of the project, students will also partake in undergraduate research that will better prepare them for the work force or for graduate studies. Students will engage in professional development activities and peer mentoring, while also having a faculty mentor who works closely with them as they assume the rigorous curriculum.

Three faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics department of biological and environmental sciences will lead the program. Dr. Mustafa Morsy serves as principal investigator and is accompanied by co-principal investigators Dr. John McCall and Dr. Lee Stanton.

The UWA BOSS scholarship recipients are chosen by a committee assembled from the project investigators and Mr. Dan Rainer, director of financial aid at UWA. In addition, an advisory committee that includes two UWA administrators will guide the direction of the project. Vice President for Student Affairs Danny Buckalew and UWA Provost Dr. Tim Edwards make one half of the advisory committee.

The advisory committee also includes two renowned biology scholars. Dr. David Asai is senior director of science education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Dr. Robert Bazell, a professor at Yale University and a former chief science and health correspondent for NBC News. Asai and Bazell will assist UWA’s advisory committee.