A grant of $225,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was awarded to Waynesburg University this year, all thanks to Dr. Takashi Suyama, assistant professor of chemistry. Suyama applied for this grant through the federal agency and was awarded based on the merit of science, determined and scored by a panel of scientists at the federal level.
“It is a competitive process,” Suyama said. “Depending on the exact grant, anywhere from like five to fifteen percent of the applications get funded. It is difficult to get those grants. We were just fortunate enough that this one got funded.”
The grant is predominantly going to be used for students on campus to do research for the university for the next several years, Suyama said. These funds are also going to be used to hire a full-time staff scientist to supervise and mentor in the lab to ease the duties of full-time professors.
Undergraduate students will be tasked with enzyme engineering research in collaboration with Bradley Moore of the University of California-San Diego, as the grant abstract states.
“It seems like a lot of money, but over so many years, per-year it is actually not a lot, especially considering what has to come out of it,” Suyama said.
According to the NSF’s website, the grant specifies that the near-quarter million dollars will be used for developing “a hybrid chemo/biocatalytic entry into the synthesis of an interesting and biologically active class of polybrominated aryl ethers.”
In simple terms, the abstract states that the university will look to find efficient ways to create medicinally important compounds, via the employment of paid student researchers. Suyama also emphasizes that research is important to any student looking to further their education in science.
“Most science graduate programs care more about your research experience than your GPA,” Suyama said. “We’ve had students in the past work on this same project, before it was funded, and had to work at Domino’s Pizza in town 30 hours a week just to make ends meet while taking all the classes and doing research.”
Suyama also said that the grant will be used to fulfill the Waynesburg University mission of service by giving experiential opportunities to current high school students. The estimated end date for the funds to be used up is slated to be July, 2024, according to the NSF website.