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Delaware Tech receives NSF grant to support advanced technology education

Delaware Tech receives NSF grant to support advanced technology education

Delaware Technical and Community College has been awarded a three-year, $878,000 grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide support for undergraduate research and faculty mentors at the college. The grant from NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program is the third in 10 years that DTCC has received to support its biotechnology program.

“I’m thrilled to receive this grant because it provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to participate in undergraduate research. That’s very unusual at the community college level,” said principal investigator Virginia Balke, instructor in Delaware Tech’s Department of Biology and Chemistry. “I hope the grant will fund research for more than 20 students each semester, and we’ll be reaching out to high school students as well.”

The SITE SMART grant, entitled “Serving Industry Through Education: Student Mentoring and Research Techniques,” will be implemented and housed in the biotechnology program at the Stanton campus near Newark.

The award addresses the shift in employer needs in the regional life sciences industry. To remain competitive, these companies require employees to take on more diverse responsibilities, and undergraduate research helps to develop these skills. The SITE SMART project aims to expand the college’s research curriculum; support the professional development of faculty mentors; increase partnerships with local universities, high schools, and industries; and increase retention of students in STEM majors (science, technology, engineering and math). Specific project goals include establishing open labs and paid internships for research, developing curriculum in advanced research methodology, and leading workshops for secondary school science teachers and students.

Delaware Tech students will be provided with access to learning communities, peer tutoring, field trips, seminars, and workshops. The benefits for students include a better understanding of the relevance of research to real-world applications, improved critical thinking, and stronger connections with faculty and industry leaders.

“The biotech program at DTCC is a 10-year success story,” said Delaware EPSCoR director Steve Borleske when the grant was announced. “It developed under the leadership of Joan I. Barber, chair of the Department of Biology and Chemistry at Delaware Tech’s Stanton campus, and Barbara Wiggins, chair of the Department of Science and Laboratory Technology at the Owens campus, with support from the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, the National Institutes of Health’s IDeA Program and the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR program. Currently, 140 students are enrolled in the program, and graduates of the program are filling important workforce needs of biotechnology companies throughout the state. This program provides a good model for workforce development in other technical fields.”