SynER-G: A Synthesis of Education and Research leading to Graduation at the University of New England
We (Larry Fritz, PI; Markus Frederich, Co PI) received NSF funding (DUE 0726749) to establish the SynER-G scholarships program (A Synthesis of Education and Research leading to Graduation), for academically talented and financially needy students pursuing baccalaureate and master’s degrees in the biological sciences. The SynER-G program focuses on recruitment of eligible students and builds upon UNE’s strong academic programs in the biological sciences, leading to improved retention rates and ultimately to graduation. The aim of the program will be to build a true synergy between undergraduate students and masters-level graduate students in the biological sciences and to enable each group to benefit from the other in terms of educational input, research training and life experiences, all under the supervision of biology faculty at UNE.
The SynER-G scholarships (up to 100% tuition coverage) will have a major impact on eligible students and enable them to afford a high-quality, private education, complete their degree, and attain the skills for the emerging science-based “knowledge economy”. SynER-G will plug into and build on existing UNE programs such as the new Honors program for undergraduates and the recently implemented M.S. program in Biology. These programs, together with UNE’s small class sizes, its expanding internship program and its dedicated faculty advising program, will ensure that the SynER-G students are given the guidance, supervision, and assistance they need to complete their biology degree.
The synergy in SynER-G comes from the integration of undergraduate scholarship students with the Masters-level scholarship students, in regular prescribed activities. The MS students will mentor undergraduates, will conduct laboratory research with them, and will lead them in a new class involving discussions and seminars on their research interests, their educational experiences and their informed advice. The goal will be to stimulate academic and research interest in our undergraduates on a more “peer-to-peer” level and early on in their education. This will enable and encourage undergraduates to go on to later pursue their own research-based science.
Undergraduate SynER-G scholars will follow the newly implemented UNE Honors program and, will work with graduate students in classroom and laboratory settings and with upper-level undergraduates as laboratory assistants in introductory labs. The SynER-G undergraduates will later be directed to conduct research in faculty labs. Throughout, all SynER-G activities will be under the supervision of the PI, co-PI or other biology faculty.
Recruitment for SynER-G will continue to emphasize UNE’s traditional strengths in attracting women and first-generation students. This will be done via a number of already-in-place avenues, including the university’s student visitation days, the college‘s admissions office, and contacts with regional high school science programs. Additionally, special efforts will be made to reach traditionally underserved, talented minority students through concerted efforts by Admissions and the PI’s in conjunction with review teams. The scholar‘s applications will be reviewed by a teams comprised of the PI and the biology Honors committee, the graduate program committee, as well as UNE admissions and financial aid offices. The broader impacts of the SynER-G scholarships will be realized in the enhancement of STEM-based education and research (both undergraduate and graduate levels), in the successful recruitment of underserved minority students, in greater retention rates in biology, in the dissemination of our findings to outside audiences, and in the long-term impacts on the growth of STEM-based science and technology in the state of Maine. Through this program our students will gain a stronger experience in the biological sciences and be better equipped for the challenges of the emerging science-based knowledge economy.