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Supporting Excellence in Science

A new scholarship program at Ursinus, Supporting Inclusive Excellence (SIE), provides opportunities to high-achieving students who plan to major in biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, or neuroscience.

Codi Yhap ’20 hopes to one day become a chiropractor. Linda McIntyre ’20 is focused on becoming a research scientist.

Thanks to a new scholarship program at Ursinus College, those goals are well within reach for the two first-year students. 

Yhap and McIntyre are members of the first cohort of Ursinus students in the Supporting Inclusive Excellence program. Funded by the National Science Foundation and Ursinus College, SIE provides scholarships to students with significant financial need — including students from populations underrepresented in the sciences and first-generation students — who plan to major in biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, or neuroscience.

Through the program, students have opportunities to perform undergraduate research, attain a paid internship, travel to science industry conferences and meetings, and participate in a co-curricular course for academic and career skill development.

“The scholarship supports students so that they can be successful in science and go on to graduate school, medical school, or careers in science after they graduate from Ursinus,” says Rebecca Kohn, a professor of biology and associate dean at Ursinus. “It’s about supporting their success. We want to ensure populations of students who may not typically not be exposed to the scientific fields get the kind of support they need so that they can be successful.”

SIE scholarships award 10 Ursinus students up to $8,500 per year for four years. NSF funds the first two years of the scholarship and Ursinus covers the final two years. This year is the first of three cohorts, and the program will fund a total of 30 students over three years.

“The scholarship is significant to me because not only does it allow me to go to school, but it allows me to go to school and study a subject I am passionate about,” says Yhap, a biology and music major from Griggstown, N.J. “I get to learn about the sciences and explore new subjects because of this scholarship and because of the liberal arts education that Ursinus offers. For that I am most thankful.”

Last semester, Yhap performed research with Mark Ellison, the David Laucks Hain Professor of Chemistry at Ursinus, and Anthony Lobo, an associate professor of biology. During the spring semester, McIntyre, a biochemistry major from Pottstown, will do research in Kohn’s lab.

“I’m excited to gain some new connections with the students that have been working in her lab for a few years now, as well as gain some experience into the basics of research,” says McIntyre, who wants to pursue a career in which she can research autoimmune diseases, particularly multiple sclerosis. “I hope that this experience will help me find out more about what I’m looking to do as a career path. I also hope that, while this research is not specifically MS research, I can gain more hands-on insight into general aspects of the way the brain works.”

Ursinus students in the SIE program also participate in a January bridge program prior to the start of the spring semester that allows them to prepare for second semester biology courses that first-year science majors take.

While a student’s first semester of biology focuses on ecology and evolution, the second semester focuses on molecular biology, biochemistry, and cellular biology.

“Those are drastically different disciplines that look at biology in different ways and the lab skills are also very different,” says Kate Goddard, an associate professor of biology at Ursinus and SIE program coordinator. “We’re committed to helping the students excel in science and the bridge program prepares students by teaching them skills needed to help them succeed in those courses.”

The SIE students return to campus for the spring semester early and spend four days working with faculty members to prepare for spring semester courses and develop lab and study skills.

“Not only will they reflect on what they learned the previous semester and how they can improve, but they’ll learn lab skills that they can in turn teach classmates, becoming mentors to other students,” Goddard says.

“There’s a wonderful synergy in this program and it’s a way for students to take advantage of multiple opportunities to make them even better students,” Kohn says. –by Ed Moorhouse