The College of Science will soon be providing new research opportunities, student support, internships and public outreach programs thanks to two recent gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One gift, worth $100,000, is from the Hearst Foundation to Science Educational Enhancement Services (SEES), a program that aims to increase diversity in the sciences by offering additional assistance to minority students.
The Hearst Foundation gift will open new doors for students, says Barbara Burke, SEES director and chemistry professor.
“We’re going to award 11 research fellowships to SEES students per year,” she says. “Eight of them to carry out research here at Cal Poly Pomona during the winter and spring quarters.”
The other three will allow SEES students to carry out research projects during the summer at research institutions such as UCLA and the City of Hope, Burke says.
“Through research projects and other professional development activities such as attending seminars and professional conferences, students will become more fully engaged with their majors. It is a well-known fact that these types of activities help to retain and graduate students,” she says. “Our goal is also to help them understand more fully what research is.”
Some of the gift will also be used to pay for students to attend professional conferences.
“Hopefully they’ll learn more about potential careers for their major,” Burke says. “[And] they’ll become more aware about graduate school requirements.”
The other gift, $100,000 from the Ernest Prete Jr. Foundation, will allow the biological sciences department to provide more funding for research scholarships, new teaching methods and service learning experiences at Biotrek, an on-campus greenhouse that encloses a tropical rainforest.
Sepehr Eskandari, biology professor and department chair, says most of the Prete Foundation gift will go directly to students; $40,000 will be used to fund 20 student research projects at $2,000 a piece, and another $50,000 will be used to pay for student internships.
“Nearly 95 percent of the gift will go to students,” Eskandari says. “I think this is something that’s really important to the Prete Foundation and we want to honor that.”
Eskandari says the gift comes at an opportune moment for the college. Its environmental biology major, founded in 2005 with 17 students, now has an enrollment exceeding 170.
“It’s a program that’s beginning to get more and more attention,” he says.
Eskandari says the gift would not have been possible without the efforts of those involved in the environmental biology major: Paul Beardsley, Ed Bobich, Michael Brown, Joan Leong, Erin Questad, Jayson Smith and Ángel Valdés.
(Photo: Students from the El Monte School District’s AVID program tour the BioTrek Rainforest at Cal Poly Pomona. BioTrek will benefit from the Prete foundation gift.)