Scholarship takes aim to stimulate local economy

Jeremy Nobile

Meant to attract students to jobs in science careers

A new scholarship that targets students pursuing fields related to biotechnology and biomedicine is part of a larger goal for the university.

The scholarship is supported by the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program. Students majoring in biotechnology, biological sciences, biological chemistry or physics with the biological sciences option can apply for this new scholarship this semester to be applied as early as Spring 2009.

Adam Leff, associate professor of biological sciences, explained why the state-run program invests money in the university.

“They put money into these scholarships because the state wants to boost the amount of biotech jobs in Northeast Ohio,” Leff said. “So, they look to the schools.”

The program will disburse approximately $2 million for the scholarships. That equates to about 350 potentially renewable, $4,700 scholarships to be awarded to Kent State students over the next five years.

Leff said the goal of the scholarship is to attract more students to a career in biotechnology or biomedicine at Kent State. This is the first step in the program’s efforts to stimulate the local economy through the creation of more biotech jobs in the surrounding area.

The scholarship is provided through an initiative of the program called Integrated Science Training for Northeast Ohio’s Future Biomedical and Biotechnology Workforce. The award is available to Kent State full-time students and can be applied to freshmen, in addition to transfer students, from some local community colleges.

Director of Biotechnology Diane Stroup said the purpose of this initiative is to attract, retain and graduate more students focused on biotechnology.

“The goal of the scholarship is to help students finish the program in four years and provide internships,” Stroup said. “But we really want to enhance their experience and keep students in the area.”

This initiative aims to take the departments into a new phase. It would include curriculum enhancement through acquisition of new classes and development of learning clusters.

The new courses will include classes and labs on fermentation and biophotonics that will be available in the coming semesters. Learning clusters refer to the development of learning communities within residence halls, focusing on sophomores.

Arne Gericke, associate professor of chemistry and graduate coordinator, stressed the importance of attracting more students to the biotechnology program in addition to keeping students around.

“It’s important to excite students to the field and help them succeed,” Gericke said. “We want to turn out more graduates and improve retention.”

Under a similar focus of the program, professors from various departments will come together in groups where students can be “team taught,” Gericke said.

He said this unique feature is an advantage of the program because teachers from the chemistry, physics and biology departments will work together to explain concepts and solve problems with students.

This is significant, Gericke explained, because the future of the sciences lays not just in a mastery of one field, but knowledge based in several.

“It’s so important because interdisciplinary is really where the science field is heading,” Gericke said.

This all reflects a general goal of the university to create more cross-departmental programs while developing new, innovative ways of teaching.

Contact sciences reporter Jeremy Nobile at [email protected].