From left: Senior biology majors Itzel Soto, Patricia Soto, Daniella Johnson, Dr. Bhuiyan, Chinaa Jennifer Okwuoma and Esther Chicou work to identify the natural properties of plant-based, bioactive compounds in new research to combat cancer. – Photo courtesy of Jarvis Christian University

(The Dallas Examiner) – A $2.25 million grant titled “Interdisciplinary Research Infusion into STEM Education Undergraduate Program” will provide academic funding for students and will also give hands-on experience to the world of science.

Jarvis Christian University biology professor Dr. Shakhawat Bhuiyan is the principal investigator in the program. As part of the National Science Foundation, the grant will span over the next five years, with a start date of Aug. 1 and run through July 31.

“This continuing grant gives students the opportunity to research plant-based bioactive compounds and nanoparticles to potentially develop new treatments for cancer,” Bhuiyan said.

The funding opportunity is made in accordance with NSF 20-559 Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program.

Each year, Jarvis will submit an annual project report in accordance with the award terms and conditions. Co-principal investigators include JCU professors Dr. Glendora Carter, Dr. Widodo Samyono and Dr. Yefer Suarez, along with Southern University and A&M College System professor Dr. Kenie R. Moses.

The research program will train a diverse group of students by making innovative connections between education and research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The project is expected to impact the academic success, retention and graduate rate of students enrolled in STEM degrees and make sustainable changes to the STEM programs at JCU. In return, it will try to increase the number of underrepresented minority students pursuing STEM degrees.

Students will gain insight into the effects of interventions on social learning strategies, including growth mindset, sense of belonging, and self-efficacy. The work will allow them to be more competitive for consideration for graduate and professional schools by having done interdisciplinary STEM research and social learning strategies as undergraduates.

“The infusion of course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences into lower-level STEM courses exposes students early to hands-on research with the potential to advance student understanding of their chosen field and to promote critical thinking skills,” Dr. Bhuiyan said.

“Student participation in faculty-mentored research during the academic year and summer internships contributes to students’ ability to compete successfully for graduate research fellowships.”

The project will involve hands-on research in the biomedical sciences, mathematical modeling, and an introduction to engineering, he said.

“The students will study plant-based bioactive compounds and green synthesis of nanoparticles in the potential treatment and drug development to find natural answers to combat growing cancer cells,” Bhuiyan said.

Students will be using orchids, aloe vera plants, mint, a variety of grapes, berries, and other fruits, cacti, and an assortment of vegetables and spices.

They will have the opportunity as undergraduates to conduct biomedical research, learn computational and mathematical modeling, write and present their peer-reviewed research at conferences.

Moreover, student participation in faculty-mentored research during the academic year and summer will contribute to the advancement of faculty research and increase JCU STEM students’ ability to compete successfully for graduate research fellowships.

Additionally, this opportunity will promote new and expanded collaborations for degree and research opportunities with other institutions through the establishment of the Interdisciplinary Research and Education Center. Likewise, the development of the new engineering program will provide a strong general foundation in the field of engineering and equip students to excel in higher-level courses and engineering specializations.

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