UE Professor Awarded $300,000 NSF Grant for Genetics Research

Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020

Joyce Stamm, PhD, professor of biology at the University of Evansville (UE), was recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant, in which Stamm is a co-principal investigator, will be applied over three years to an ongoing genetics-focused research initiative. 

The collaborative project, titled “A Multi-Institutional Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience in Genetics,” is led by Jacob Kagey, PhD, at the University of Detroit Mercy and has co-principal investigators from a total of four institutions, including UE. The grant funds plan to expand the research project to a total of 20 institutions. The overall goal is to make research experiences more accessible for students historically underrepresented in biomedical research. This includes programs at community colleges and universities with large minority populations. 

The grant is part of NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program, which seeks to enhance STEM education for undergraduate students by utilizing alternative methods to teaching and learning. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in jobs related to STEM – or science, technology, engineering, and math – continues to be a rapidly growing, in-demand field.  

Stamm, who has worked with Kagey on the project since 2016, incorporates a semester-long research project into her genetics course. Participating students map genetic mutations that cause tumor formation in fruit flies. These mutations can offer clues as to what goes wrong in similar diseases among humans. To date, two papers have been published describing the results of this work.  

Over the last five years, nearly 100 students have benefitted from the research experience in genetics courses taught by Stamm and Julie Merkle, PhD, assistant professor of biology. Stamm said she is excited to continue this initiative and provide impactful opportunities for future biology students. 

“I have a passion for developing college courses with opportunities for conducting original research because it increases student interest and retention in STEM majors and careers,” said Stamm. “Collaborative projects like this grant project are highly beneficial in higher education because they provide important infrastructure and support for professors. We can then turn around and pass on these opportunities to our students.” 

In the past, Stamm has taken advantage of large national projects in genomics and microbiology to incorporate research projects into introductory and advanced courses. Now, she is excited to “pay it forward” through her direct involvement in this project, which will expand research opportunities for future students. 

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