Rollins Receives Scientific Equipment Grant

July 06, 2023

By Laura J. Cole ’04 ’08MLS

Chemistry students work with a professor in a lab.
Photo by Scott Cook.

The Sherman Fairchild Foundation has awarded Rollins a grant that will enhance learning in the sciences and make biology and chemistry majors even more competitive for careers in STEM.

The Sherman Fairchild Foundation has awarded Rollins $486,650 as part of their Scientific Equipment Program (SEP). The grant will be used to remove barriers to studying science, create a sense of belonging for students regardless of backgrounds, increase opportunities for undergraduate research, and boost graduates’ competitiveness in the science sector post-Rollins. Rollins was one of 12 schools invited to submit proposals for the foundation’s 16th phase of the SEP and one of only three to receive grants this year.

The four-year grant will be used to modernize and standardize lab equipment and software by outfitting all general biology and chemistry classes with LabQuest 3, a shared interface and industrywide platform that allows students to focus on doing science rather than learning different platforms in each class. Additionally, this award will create an advanced integrated biochemistry and molecular biology equipment suite for upper-level students and will increase funding for student-faculty research projects, which provide undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct, publish, and present original research.

“We want students to be able to focus on doing actual science rather than figuring out how to use the equipment,” says chemistry professor James Patrone, who led the grant proposal team. “The plan is that during a student’s first two years, we’d homogenize the learning experience to make it easier for them to focus on learning science. That will allow us in year three and four to provide the modern equipment they’d use at a job in the science sector. The overall goal is to remove barriers so when students graduate and move on to careers or graduate school, they have the knowledge and confidence to succeed. This grant allows us to do that better.”

Patrone teamed up with biology professors Jay Pieczynski and Sabrice Guerrier as well as chemistry professor Laurel Habgood to complete the grant proposal, with additional input from psychology professor Jenny Queen and Director of the Endeavor Foundation Center for Faculty Development Nancy Chick.

“I think it’s a really exciting time to major in STEM at Rollins with all of the things on the horizon and quickly coming to fruition,” says Pieczynski. “We want students to experience the scientific method, which means as faculty, we don’t always know the ultimate outcome of the experiments. This grant allows us to expand our offerings in that arena, meaning more students will be working in real time doing real science.”

A Rollins professor leads a discussion in an outdoor classroom.

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