The Paw Print
Construction in the chemistry wing on the third floor of Porter Hall, which is tentatively set to be completed in late November, along with the newly remodeled Zacheis Planetarium are new additions to the campus provided by the STEM grant (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
Because of the university’s status as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), the STEM grant was made available by the U.S. Department of Education in order to increase the number of Hispanic and lower income graduates with science majors.
Members of faculty and grant writing specialists spearheaded the grant proposal. Matt Nehring, Professor of Physics and Chair of the Department of Chemistry, Computer Science and Mathematics; Benita Brink, Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Department of Biology and Earth Sciences, along with the universities Title V program grant specialists Tawney Becker; and Lillian Gomez, all participated in the grant writing process.
The university was awarded a grand total of 3.6 million dollars by the U.S. Department of Education. This total will be distributed over a five-year period with the first allotment of money for $869,849. In addition to this first allotment of funds, the university also added an estimated $200,000 into the project in order to free up more of the grant money for initiatives that are not related to the construction, noted Nehring.
According to Nehring and Brink, the Zacheis Planetarium remodel and the construction in Porter Hall are all aimed at creating an environment of success and engagement for current and future science students, especially Hispanic and low income students. “We want to bring in not just high school students into the science programs, we want to focus on getting local children interested in sciences and having them associate that interest with the STEM program and ASU. This is how we want to utilize the planetarium, a way for young students to engage in sciences,” added Nehring.
The construction in the Chemistry wing of Porter Hall consists of creating two main spaces. According to Brink, the first space constructed with be the most crucial to student success and will consist of a commons area for students to receive tutoring in science areas provided by the STEM grant. “Science students have no central place to gather in Porter Hall, which is not conducive to peer-communication and academic success, the new space will help change that,” said Brink.
The second space will be an undergraduate research laboratory that will be shared by all the science disciplines. Providing undergraduates with the opportunity to integrate scientific knowledge and participate in hands on scientific research is the focus of the laboratory. “Being a rural university with this type of research lab will attract more students to the sciences and allow professors to conduct research otherwise not possible,” noted Nehring.
Although the grant was awarded to help Hispanic and low-income students, the services the grant will provide are for all students at ASU. “We want to make sure that students understand that these projects are being done to improve the education of anyone who is taking science courses at the university,” said Nehring.