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WSSU receives nearly $2 million in new NSF grants

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) has received nearly $2 million in new grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will expand research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at the university.

Since May, WSSU has received six grants from the NSF. The grants will provide stipends for about 22 WSSU undergraduate students each year to conduct paid research. Dozens of students will be impacted through classroom research projects. The grants also will support paid research for WSSU graduate students.

“Our influx in NSF awards is reflective of the environment we are cultivating to support the integration of high impact practices through student research,” said Erin Lynch, associate provost of scholarship, research, and innovation. “Faculty efforts to engage students in their research projects demonstrates our commitment to preparing students with the real-world skills conducting research requires.”

The grants will partner WSSU researchers with faculty from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina A&T State University, and Tennessee State University.

The grants align with WSSU’s Strategic Plan, which focuses on expanding high-impact opportunities – such as research, internships and study abroad – to help students hone essential skills.

This news comes as WSSU prepares for the opening of a $53 million sciences building. The five-story research building, which will open next year, will anchor WSSU’s sciences district and includes lab space to increase faculty and student collaboration. The building, first envisioned in 2006, is funded through the Connect NC Bond.

Department of Psychological Sciences

Attitudes, Motivations and Justification Surrounding Interpersonal Aggression

PI: Naomi Hall-Byers

Awarded: $499,847

This three-year grant, through HBCU-UP Excellence in Research, will help to understand perpetration and victimization of aggression among Black college students by testing a social psychologically grounded conceptual model. The research will provide a glimpse into the psychological and social processes related to incidence and prevalence of aggression among students. Findings also may be used to help develop violence prevention and intervention programs, and/or to inform campus policies and procedures. For the grant, Hall-Byers will collaborate with Yarneccia Dyson, assistant professor of social work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who received a sub-award. Up to six undergraduate WSSU students will work on the grant. Also, a post-doctoral associate will be hired for the project. 

Kelly Minor, assistant professor of psychology at WSSU, will be assisting with the grant.

Department of Biological Sciences

Life STEM: Promoting STEM Career Awareness, Engagement, and Identify via Culturally Relevant and Technology-infused STEM-based Curriculum

PI: Stephanie Dance-Barnes

Co-PIs: Kenneth Brown, Breonte Guy, Chad Markert and Dawn Tafari

Awarded: $400,000

This grant, through NSF’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, will fund a two-year exploratory project that seeks to lay the foundation for a sustainable program that engages underserved/minority third-fifth grade students in culturally relevant experiences that fosters awareness of STEM careers, and motivates them to pursue the education necessary to participate in those careers. This project also will create training and mentoring opportunities for students, teachers, and families through a synergistic partnership with WSSU and STEM career partners.

Department of Computer Science

Excellence In Research: Computational Framework and Data Science for Identification

PI: Mustafa Atay

Co-PI: Debzani Deb

Awarded: $299,962

This three-year collaborative research grant aims to integrate research with educational activities for students at undergraduate and graduate levels. The grant will support the introduction of a new course, Data Science and Machine Learning, and the enhancement of an existing course with data analytics and AI concepts.

The proposed project activities provide an advanced level of research training and education opportunities in the fields of data science and analytics, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity for primarily minority students from underrepresented groups to better prepare them for advanced degree programs and successful careers in technology and science. WSSU will collaborate with professors in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina A&T State University on the grant. The combined grants are for $1 million. The grant aims to strengthen the pipeline in computer science from WSSU to NCAT’s Ph.D. program. 

Five WSSU students – three undergraduate and two graduate – will be paid annually through the grant.

Department of History, Politics and Social Justice, and Department of Computer Science

Integrating Data Science into the Urban Studies & Sustainability Curriculum

PI: Russell Smith

Co-PI: Debzani Deb

Awarded: $250,000

This two-year grant, through HBCU-UP, will support students in the bachelor's in computer science and the minor in urban studies and sustainability programs. The grant will help to engage WSSU undergraduate students in urban studies-related research. The grant will fund computers and equipment to establish a new urban studies lab and an Applied Urban Studies Lab course. Two courses will be modified to orient students to current trends in urban studies.

The grant also will fund eight undergraduate student research assistants – four computer science and four from urban studies and sustainability – over two years. About 150 students will be impacted through the new and expanded courses.

Department of Chemistry

Environmental Quality Assurance using Ion Mobility Spectrometry

PI: Bakarr Kanu

Awarded: $200,000

This three-year Research Catalyst grant will set the stage for long-term environmental monitoring of indoor buildings and sites that have been exposed to contaminants and for analyzing water contaminated with VOCs. The grant will allow more students to be engaged in research. Students will have the opportunity to be co-authors in publications. Four undergraduate students will be paid through the grant over a two-year period.  

Department of Academic Affairs

BCSER-IID: Foundations for a STEM What Work Clearinghouse for Broadening Participation Research in STEM Education

PI: Erin Lynch

Awarded: $318,639

Through this two-year capacity-building grant, WSSU researchers will develop a first-of-its-kind online database for STEM education Broadening Participation research at the nation’s HBCUs. The research will identify what Broadening Participation Research interventions work and for whom, specifically which intervention characteristics are prevalent in BPR for HBCU programs, and then for which disciplines (Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, Environmental Sciences, etc.) are those characteristics prevalent. Two WSSU students, one undergraduate and one graduate, will receive tuition support and stipends as research assistants as part of the project. 

Building STEM

Over the past two years, WSSU has received $4.2 million in new NSF grants to expand research. 

According to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, WSSU ranks as one of the top 100 producers of bachelor’s degrees in the nation for African Americans in physical sciences, biology, computer sciences, psychology and math.

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