GAANN chemistry doctoral fellowship fills

A doctoral fellowship program in the department of chemistry and biochemistry reached its capacity this fall with the arrival of Dennis Gibson, Leesville, La.

That makes eight students in the program, which is funded by a three-year, $525,600 federal grant. The Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need program seeks to recruit graduate students who are highly qualified for graduate study and demonstrate financial need into disciplines where there are needs for more doctoral-trained individuals in the workforce.

The program’s primary focus is to award grants to women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and students from other groups who are under-represented in the chemical sciences.

The department received the award in 2010. The fellows in that first cohort — Patrick Lee, Rapid City; Angelica Reyes, Chino, Calif.; Brandon Scott, Slippery Rock, Pa.; and Sonia de la Torre-Melendez, Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico — arrived for the start of classes in the fall

They are in their third year of a doctoral program that typically takes 4 ½ to five years, department head Jim Rice says.

In their second year of the program are Brendan Mitchell of Canton, N.Y.; Micheal Stutelberg of Woodbury, Minn.; and Cyndey Johnson-Edler of Brookings.

Recipients receive stipend, school funds

Each student receives a stipend of up to $30,000 per year based on financial need and a $13,755 educational allowance for tuition, fees and other educational expenses.

“The fellowship removes the financial barrier that many graduate students face, particularly those from families that are not able to help pay for the cost of a graduate education,” Rice says. “Because of the stipend and education allowance, GAANN fellows are free to focus on their required coursework and the research project that is the intellectual center of their Ph.D. degree program.”

The program begins with an eight-week orientation in which all new graduate students in the department are required to participate. It not only helps orient the students to the department and its graduate program, but it also provides them with training to teach the laboratory portions of the foundational chemistry courses  the department offers in support of many other majors and programs on campus.

The department currently has 62 graduate students, 55 of whom are pursuing a doctorate. The graduate program has three research focus areas: environmental and green chemistry, the use of light to study and control biochemical processes in cells, and chemical education. During fall semester 2012, five doctoral students defended their dissertation and were awarded their Ph.D.s and two master’s degrees were completed.

Program status uncertain beyond 2013

“Graduate students teach most of our instructional laboratory courses,” Rice says. “They are an important part of our instructional staff, and we want to make sure they are well-prepared to provide the quality instructional experience that our program expects.

“This fellowship is one indicator of how far SDSU and our department have come in expanding our research capacity. It shows that South Dakota’s investment in research and doctoral education is developing programs that are capable of attracting nationally competitive graduate students.”

Faculty members and professors who co-wrote the proposal and are helping to implement it include Matt Miller, Doug Raynie, Jay Shore and Fathi Halaweish.

Rice says the department will reapply for funding this year assuming the U.S. Department of Education program is renewed in the next federal budget. In 2010, SDSU was one of only six universities in the nation to receive this grant. Others included the University of Nebraska, State University of New York, Washington University, Emory University and University of Alabama.

Dave Graves

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