The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Virginia Union University (VUU) nearly $380,000 to provide more intensive research experiences to students in the biological sciences. The money will be used over a three-year period to implement an Undergraduate Research Certificate Program. “The certificate is validation to graduate programs and employers that the student had a research-intensive curriculum,” said Dr. Carleitta Paige-Anderson, principal investigator of the grant.
Dr. Paige-Anderson will work with co-principal investigator Dr. Vernon Ruffin to develop and implement course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in specific classes in the biology curriculum. “Freshmen taking General Biology will be exposed to inquiry-based research that actively involves them in the development of a research project where the answer is unknown prior to completion of the research,” Paige-Anderson stated. At the end of freshman year, students can decide whether they wish to pursue a research certificate. Students choosing to pursue the certificate will receive grant funding to serve as peer teachers assisting students in freshman-level courses, participate in journal clubs discussing recent advances in science, as well as engage in research on or off campus with Drs. Paige-Anderson and Ruffin’s scientific collaborators. Once students complete significant research projects as part of a capstone course during their senior year, funding is available for them to present their research findings at scientific conferences throughout the country.
“Expanding the university’s research capacity is an excellent strategy for producing more graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),” Paige-Anderson added. “There is evidence that students who participate in authentic research early in their academic careers are more likely to persist in the sciences.”