(Left to right) Dr. Sergiy Rosokha works in a Ball State lab along with student CJ Jean at the counter with Dr. David Bwambok supervising.
IN LSAMP program at Ball State brings opportunities to aspiring STEM students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Ball State University continues to prioritize increasing its graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. One part of the strategy is to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups earning college degrees in these fields. In keeping with this goal, Ball State earned external support as one of six campuses in this state participating in the Indiana Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation in STEM (IN LSAMP) program.
Formed in 2016 with an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), IN LSAMP aims to boost the quality and quantity of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds receiving bachelor’s degrees in STEM disciplines. The grant’s ultimate goals are to extend opportunities to those who traditionally have not had them and to diversify the workforce in these industries. The five other campuses that are part of the IN LSAMP alliance are Indiana University-Bloomington, Indiana University-Northwest, Indiana University-South Bend, Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Ivy Tech at Indianapolis.
As part of the national LSAMP program with the same goals, IN LSAMP promotes student success by engaging STEM students in the high impact practice of undergraduate research. Additionally, the program encourages the establishment of a mentoring relationship with faculty on campus and professional development activities for the students. Peer mentoring and tutoring are also components of the IN LSAMP program.
The IN LSAMP program at Ball State—awarded an NSF grant of $550,000—is co-directed by Dr. Anita Gnezda, teaching professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Mary Konkle, associate professor of Chemistry. Ball State’s current grant was originally awarded for five years, but an extension was granted. So, the current grant entered its sixth year in 2023.
“NSF gives us funds to support students from underrepresented populations to do research,” Dr. Gnezda explained. “And we can support them in opportunities that may not have come their way for many reasons. Under the mentorship of a faculty member, our IN LSAMP scholars get to do hands-on research and present their research at different conferences. Many times, they are authors of papers based on the research that they have participated in.”
According to Dr. Gnezda, in the first five years, 55 Ball State undergraduate students—up through the 2021-2022 academic year—have been supported as Research Scholars by the NSF funds. Lindsey Herrera, one of those Ball State IN LSAMP scholars, attended the Society of Women Engineers “WE22 Conference” in Houston with financial support from the IN LSAMP program.
“I had the chance to connect with over 14,000 women in engineering, including students and professionals, and network with hundreds of well-known companies such as SpaceX, Boeing, Roche, Boston Scientific, Ball Aerospace, and Raytheon,” Ms. Herrera said. “The networking skills that I developed as an IN LSAMP scholar prior to attending the conference helped me score interviews with Delta Airlines, Eaton, and General Electric. I am excited to have received my first job offer from Eaton as a Summer operations management intern and will be interviewing for a few more internships.”
According to Dr. Konkle, undergraduate research, professional development, conference attendance, and research presentations are among many activities aspiring STEM professionals are expected to have experienced in order to be competitive. This is true for either post-graduate studies or employment opportunities in STEM fields. The support from NSF enables the opportunities to be extended to more students.
Ball State Earns $4.9 Million in Federal Funds for Various Research Projects
Underway at Ball State University are 13 research projects that have earned federal funding—for a total of $4.9 million. The IN LSAMP Program is one of them, with funding of $550,000 over six years, awarded by the National Science Foundation.
Among the other federally funded projects at Ball State:
- A study to develop new green-chemical catalysts through enzyme engineering—$366,434 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation; Primary Investigator: Dr. Jordan Froese, assistant professor of Chemistry.
- A study to understand the molecular mechanisms of frontal temporal dementia (an incurable, devastating neurodegenerative disease)—$464,000 grant awarded by the National Institute of Health; Primary Investigator: Dr. Philip Smaldino, associate professor of Cell Biology.
- A study about social information use and communication in aquatic embryos—$488,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation; Primary Investigator: Dr. Jessica Ward, associate professor of Animal Behavior.
- A study of the resistance of the albicans infection to current treatment options to identify more effective antifungal infection treatments—$433,000 grant awarded by the National Institute of Health; Primary Investigator: Dr. Doug Bernstein, associate professor of Biology
- A study of the mechanisms underlying the flexibility and resilience of the mourning gecko in an ever-changing environment—$385,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation; Primary Investigator: Dr. Kathleen Foster, assistant professor of Biology
- A study of the major G-quadraplex helicase, DHX36, to disrupt two hallmark pathways of cancers: uncontrolled cell proliferation and immortality—$427,000 grant awarded by the National Institute of Health; Primary Investigator: Dr. Robert Haney, assistant professor of Biology
- A study, based on specific targeting, detection, and treatment of prostate cancer, to develop a robust monoclonal antibody alternative platform that can be used for therapeutic applications towards a broad range of diseases—$417,000 grant awarded by the National Institute of Health; Primary Investigator: Dr. Emil Khisamutdinov, associate professor of Chemistry
- A study of protein degradation to understand how cells clear blockages in translocons to contribute to improved treatments for a range of human diseases associated with alterations in cellular traffic, including cholesterol-related conditions and diabetes—$447,000 grant awarded by the National Institute of Health; Primary Investigator: Dr. Eric Rubenstein, professor of Biology
- A study to describe the exact mechanisms to regulate coronary vessel development from its progenitor stem cell population—$429,000 grant awarded by the National Institute of Health; Primary Investigator: Dr. Bikram Sharma, assistant professor of Biology
- A study to provide significant structural and mechanistic insights into the development of new pharmaceutical agents and chemical probes for future translational biomedical research in the field of protein translocation—$438,000 grant awarded by the National Institute of Health; Primary Investigator: Dr. Wei Shi, assistant professor of Chemistry
- A study finding the effect of NOM particle size and surface constituents on the uptake and photochemical breakdown of organic contaminants—$248,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation; Primary Investigator: Dr. Mahamud Subir, associate professor of Chemistry
- A study of biofilms and their interactions with wetlands to assess how between plant- and microbial biofilm-mediated activities impact the amount of carbon that gets stored in peat under this wet phase, and how much carbon is released into the atmosphere—$200,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation; Primary Investigator: Dr. Kevin Wyatt, professor of Biology