Increasing Access to Graduate Degrees, Professional Development, and Research Experiences: Pathways to Achievement in Chemical Industries

Project Details


This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need at Montclair State University, a Hispanic Serving Institution and a majority minority institution. Over its five-year duration, this project will fund scholarships to 37 unique full time and part time students who are pursuing master's degrees in chemistry. The Scholars will receive scholarships of up to two years. The project aims to enable low-income students to pursue a master's degree in chemistry through 1) scholarships, 2) flexible degree track options, 3) increased tutoring, 4) summer research stipends, and 5) a cost-effective 15-month master's degree track. This project is also significant because it will increase opportunities for students to participate in short-term research projects that fit into the students' academic and work schedules. Research participation is known to be a high-impact practice in chemistry education, but many master's students currently forgo this opportunity. The project will generate knowledge about strategies to increase research participation of graduate students, particularly low-income, working master's students. Faculty members will offer Scholars additional opportunities to participate in data analysis or modeling projects, so that the Scholars' research experience fits into their academic, work, and personal schedules and can be conducted from home. The project will contribute to building the skilled future workforce needed by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries in Northern New Jersey.

The overall goal of this project is to increase STEM degree completion of low-income, high-achieving graduate students with demonstrated financial need. The project has two specific aims: 1) to create flexible options that allow low-income, academically talented, students with a bachelor's degree to advance their studies and obtain a Master's of Chemistry degree; 2) to change and adapt an existing Master's of Chemistry program to better prepare students for modern chemistry research positions in industry and academia. This project is motivated by recent research suggesting that students with a Professional Science MS are in demand. Professional Science MS programs cultivate the knowledge and skills desired by industry and government for their employees. Additionally, it is well known that professional skills including teamwork and communication are critical for success in modern chemical industry, but students in traditional Master's of Chemistry programs often lack professional development opportunities to develop such skills. This project will identify the skills that students need to be competitive for positions in Northern New Jersey chemistry and pharmaceutical biochemistry industries and advance the understanding of best practices to cultivate these skills. The project will gather data from interviews, focus groups, and surveys with undergraduate students, master's students, faculty, and local professionals. Using these data, the project will investigate how chemistry professionals and students value a program that offers fewer chemistry-specific courses while offering students formal coursework in professional skills. Results of this project will be made available by presentations, publications, and informal dissemination through university visits. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/01/2131/12/25


  • National Science Foundation: $1,000,000.00


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