President lunches with scholars

President Sterritt lunches with new 'science/data' scholars

February 21, 2019
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer
Lorraine and Declan

Photo directly above shows President Lorraine Sterritt seated across from them, next to biology Professor Declan McCabe. Below, a wider shot of the whole group in the Green Mountain Dining Room. (photos by Eva Wilton ’19)

Three Saint Michael’s College students who recently received so-called S-Stem scholarships to encourage their combined study of science with a computational or quantitative concentration met together as a cohort for the first time Thursday during an informal luncheon with Saint Michael’s President Lorraine Sterritt in the Green Mountain Dining Room.

It was the first visible campus activity relating to a major National Science Foundation Grant of nearly $1 million that the College received last summer. The three scholarship students dining and chatting with President Sterritt Thursday were Marlynn Serwili, a sophomore biology major from South Burlington, VT; Kira Cogger ’19, a senior neuroscience major from Sheffield, VT; and Owen Sanborn ‘20, a junior biology major from Gilmanton, NH. Faculty advisers from the College’s NSF grant advisory team were Declan McCabe (biology) and Brett Findley (chemistry).

McCabe said eligible students for the scholarship were identified earlier this academic year based on their interest in majors or concentrations that combine science and computation, combined with financial-aid considerations. “We wanted to give them to hard-working and deserving students who we selected from among those eligible based on what we knew about them as students,” he said

The selection was made by faculty who are directing the grant’s implementation on campus: Jo Ellis-Monaghan (mathematics/statistics) and Greta Pangborn (computer science), Bret R. Findley (chemistry), Declan J. McCabe (biology), Michael Larsen (mathematics and statistics) and Mark Lubkowitz (biology).

McCabe that instead of having a single adviser as most students do, these scholarship students will have an adviser “from both sides, computation and science—so each will be advised by faculty from math, statistics, computer science and data science on the one side, and from biology, biochemistry/chemistry/environmental science and neuroscience on the other.”

Serwili, Cogger and Sanborn will be invited to whatever activities the advisory group runs connected to the NSF grant, which will include alumni panels, outside speakers, regular “Math and Cookies” social meetings that might now more specifically focus on the intersection of science and math some of the time. “We’re trying to link departments better,” McCabe said.

A likely path for the scholarship winners after graduation might be graduate school in areas demanding combined computation and science skills — but the background supported by these funds will boost their job skills in general and provide a wider career choice, he said.

The S-Stem grant is a scholarship opportunity for students interested in a major/minor combination that includes a Life Science and a Computational (or Quantitative) subject; the students must also be academically strong, maintain at least 3.0 GPA, and have unmet financial need for the total cost of attending college as defined by the FASFA.

Grant backgroundLuncheon

In August, Saint Michael’s College leaders learned that they would receive the largest scholarship grant in the College’s history from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help faculty train more data-savvy scientists and science-savvy mathematicians, statisticians and computer scientists through scholarships, enrichment programs and new curriculum that connects disciplines better. These scholarships are part of that initiative.

The nearly $1 million has been awarded by the NSF to the faculty at the College from the departments of mathematics/statistics, biology, computer science and chemistry to fund a five-year project entitled “Developing a Life Sciences Workforce with Strong Quantitative Skills.” The major component of the grant funding is devoted to funding the scholarships.  Other funds are for administrative tasks and programs, such as Thursday’s luncheon but also including alumni panels and guest speakers.

The grant specifically asks Saint Michael’s faculty leaders to hold cohort-forming activities. This recent lunch with the president, at her initiative and invitation. will be documented as such an activity, though that was not part of the overall plan written into the grant application initially, McCabe said.


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