FPU gets almost $650,000 grant from NSF to help low-income science students

  • Students sample lichen during a winter lab on the Franklin Pierce University campus in Rindge. Courtesy photo

  • Students drill a hole in the ice on Pearly Pond on the Franklin Pierce University campus in Rindge to take water samples. Courtesy photo

  • Students sample clubmoss in the natural areas on the Franklin Pierce University campus in Rindge. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, April 12, 2018 7:49AM

Thanks to a substantial grant, Franklin Pierce University will make efforts to help academically-talented, low-income students pursue bachelor’s degrees in biology and environmental science.

The university has received a National Science Foundation grant of $649,931 which will allow the university to offer four-year scholarships to around 14 students – seven students starting next year, with an additional seven the year after – and provide funding for student enrichment opportunities.

“We’re trying to build a support network to really help these students not only to succeed while here, but to successfully be placed in jobs or grad programs,” said Rhine Singleton, principal investigator of the university’s NSF grant application. 

Students coming to campus through the grant will be enrolled in the Biology and Environmental Science Training (BEST) program, which will offer enrichment opportunities above and beyond their biology and/or environmental science coursework. 

“We’re working on ways to enhance the experience they have in courses we already offer, but then there are some additional experiences,” said Singleton. Field trips, job-shadowing opportunities, professional conferences, and faculty mentoring are some of the enrichment opportunities, according to Singleton. 

Singleton said a benefit to taking biology and environmental courses at FPU is the more than 1,000 acres of undeveloped land on the 1,200-acre campus. The undeveloped land is used as a living laboratory, offering multiple types of ecosystems, all a short walk from the university’s science building. 

“We don’t have to drive to these natural areas, we can get to them pretty quickly. Even in a two-hour lab, I can design a lab where students are actually collecting data and doing a science project,” said Singleton. “We aren’t the only campus, but it’s unusual for a college or university to have literally 1,000 acres right outside the door.”

Singleton said the university has received NSF funding in the past, but not to the level of this grant. 

“It’s acknowledgement from the National Science Foundation about the quality of the programs we are offering, because its competitive,” said Singleton. “The fact that they essentially chose to pay students to come here speaks highly of the programs we’ve developed.”

As a part of the grant, Singleton said research results from the program will help to inform university curriculum goals and that findings could be used as a model for other university and college programs that receive similar funding.

While the grant is for five-years, Singleton said the university can apply for more funding from NSF in the future. Singleton said the program could one day be continued under another funding source, should it be found to be successful.