National grant funds MNSU RISEbio program

Madison Diemert
Staff Writer

MNSU has received an almost one-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation Awards for a new program in biology.

The new program, the Research Immersive Scholastic Experience—RISEbio—is a collaborative effort of four professors in the biology department.

“The program is a scholarship and support program,” said professor David Sharlin, who will be teaching one of the first classes of RISEbio.

The program is geared toward incoming freshmen who showcase academic potential and a need for financial assistance.

There will be a total of 20 students picked for the program every year, starting in fall 2018. For the first three semesters, $7,500 in scholarship money will be awarded to students in the RISEbio program. The students will also have the opportunity to live in a RISEbio learning community, conduct research, and develop skills that will help in all other aspects of life.

Students will be a part of the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI).

“FRI exposes incoming students to authentic research in their first year,” said Sharlin. “There are a number of studies that demonstrate that integrating undergraduate research enhances scholastic outcomes.”

The students will also be a part of a vertical mentoring system.

“The way that the vertical mentorship is set up is that each research stream will have a graduate assistant associated with it,” said Sharlin. “That graduate assistant will be more of a peer mentor to the RISEbio scholars.”

Sharlin hopes that this might make students in the program feel more comfortable, “because we can be scary as professors sometimes,” Sharlin said.

After the first year, the scholars will be paid to be either a Learning Community Coordinator of the RISEbio learning community or an assistant to a research stream, said Sharlin. This helps with the student’s financial needs and also keeps them associated with the program.

It is also important that students know their traditional biology courses will be replaced with the required courses for RISEbio.

“It’s a one for one,” said Sharlin. So instead of students taking BIO 105, they will take the Methods course instead.

RISEbio is a collaborative project within the Biology Department. Sharlin is involved as well as Dr. Brittany Smith, Dr. Rachel Cohen, Dr. Allison Land, and Dean Brian Martensen.

Everyone has a role in RISEbio, says Sharlin. He is required to do the NSF reporting that comes with having such a large grant and he will also teach one of the first classes the scholars will take. Dr. Cohen and Dr. Land will be running the research streams and Dr. Smith will help design experiments to test how RISEbio is actually helping students to do better.

Dr. Sharlin also invites anyone who is interested in the RISEbio program to consider applying using Scholarship Finder.

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