Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

On the Cutting Edge

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

On the Cutting Edge

Article excerpt

Lincoln University Aims to Strengthen STEM Programs Through Teaching, Research

When Dr. Ivory Nelson became president of Lincoln University in 1999, Nelson, a trained chemist, declared that he would make scientific research and education one of his greatest priorities.

One example of progress on the STEM - science technology, engineering and mathematics - front is in the research of Dr. Derrick Swinton, a Lincoln chemistry professor who in May received his second Department of Defense grant. The three-year, $482,838 grant was issued through the HBCU/MI program, which is geared specifically toward minority serving institutions, and was used to buy equipment for a complex technique that Swinton uses in his research called single -molecule spectroscopy. Spectroscopy uses light to examine the properties of molecules and chemicals and Swinton's work has wide implications in both medicine and even nanotechnology.

"These Department of Defense grants are major steps forward," Swinton says, adding that the grants will bring "prestige" to the university. "The fact that some HBCUs do outstanding research in the sciences often goes unrecognized. People sometimes say that you are at an HBCU because you couldn't make it in a White university. I could have gone anywhere, and I chose to come here."

The road to STEM success at Lincoln University has not always been smooth. In 2007, Dr. Abdulalim Shabazz, a noted mathematician who was honored with a national mentoring award by President Clinton in 2000, resigned from his post at Lincoln in protest of a perceived lack of commitment to STEM.

Swinton adds that Lincoln's previous weaknesses in the sciences hampered his own efforts to secure grants, along with his unfamiliarity with grant writing, which was exacerbated by the fact that he did not have a mentor to help guide the grant-writing process.

As a part of its strategic plan for 2009-2013, Lincoln outlined its goals to overhaul its science programs, which include plans to "increase the number of enrolled sciences and mathematics majors . . . retain 70 percent of those students majoring in science and math who entered in fall 2008 ... secure partnerships and cooperative agreements with major research universities for enhancing student and faculty development and significantly augment the (chemistry) department's research capabilities."

"My vision," says Nelson, "is to have a program where a young person comes in and has access to a strong curriculum, and good mentoring. …

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