NIH grant, $1,625,700 funds E-SPARE program

Kesha Williams
April 03, 2009

A grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow a select number of students to earn wages while they complete undergraduate courses and research projects. The Department of Chemistry, Geology and Physics at Elizabeth City State University received a $1,625,700 grant from the Minority Biomedical Research Support Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE)/National Institute for General Medical Sciences/National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund the Elizabeth City State University Support Program for Academic and Research Enhancement (E- SPARE). This project is designed to help undergraduates develop competence within their science discipline; develop resiliency to challenges in the laboratory, in and outside the classroom; and to develop related leadership skills. The grant will fund the program between 2009 and 2013 and support up to 56 participants in that time frame. In the first year, there will be 8 participants and 16 participants in subsequent years. The proposed program will provide a strong science curriculum enhanced by well-designed co-curricular activities. These activities include: (1) research opportunities under the guidance of faculty (2) participation in concurrent supplemental instruction to enhance achievement in the student's major; (3) workshops and motivational seminars as well as three academic and career advisement sessions; (4) networking with ECSU faculty from the ECSU School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, alumni and prominent visiting scientists; (5) participation in biomedical science seminar series, workshops and scientific research bowl competitions; (6) paper presentations at national science symposia, (7) publishing papers in biomedical science journals, (8) engaging in activities that make each participant very competitive for acceptance into strong doctoral degree programs in the U.S. A total of 56 participants will be enrolled over the 4-year funding period with 8 participants in year one and 16 in subsequent years. The purpose of the program is to motivate ECSU students to seek advanced degrees and careers in the sciences. Specifically, it is expected that 49 or 75 percent of the participants will be accepted at prominent institutions in the US to pursue master's and PhD degree programs. Dr. Ephraim Gwebu, program director for the E-SPARE program and chair of the ECSU Department of Chemistry, Geology and Physics, said more undergraduate students should prepare now for careers as researchers. However, he argues, someone must inform them of those career options and provide guidance and support. The E-SPARE program will groom ECSU undergraduates for graduate schools where challenging scientific research projects are occurring. "We will accept sophomores to the E-SPARE program who have a minimum 3.0 grade point average. Potential students are those who plan to attend graduate school and major in chemistry, sociology, biology and physics and psychology," Gwebu said. During the summer, all of these students will conduct research with faculty at several universities including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, East Carolina University, Wake Forest University, Emory University, University of Louisville, The Ohio State University, Clemson University, Loma Linda University in California, Meharry Medical College and Howard University, Vanderbilt University and Virginia Commonwealth University. It is a rare and a unique opportunity for students to earn a salary, basically year round, to conduct research while completing their coursework and engaging in academic activities to make them highly competitive for entry into PhD programs." "Preparation for future challenges begins now and the E-SPARE will be a catalyst," Gwebu said. For more information, contact Dr. Ephraim Gwebu in the ECSU Department of Chemistry, Geology and Physics, 252-335-3232 or Mrs Shanta Armwood-Outlaw (Program Coordinator), 252-335-3375.