NSF grant funds SMCC research fellowships, curriculum development to boost STEM workforce

A National Science Foundation grant is allowing Southern Maine Community College students to take part in a cutting-edge scientific research project that will be integrated into SMCC’s biotechnology curriculum.

The National Science Foundation has awarded Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay a three-year grant of $399,908 for a study of a marine protozoan parasite that infects oysters along the Maine coast. The study is being done in collaboration with the University of Maine, which received a $174,742 grant for the project.

A portion of Bigelow Laboratory’s grant will fund research positions for SMCC students at Bigelow in the summers of 2018 and 2019. The research activity will also become part of SMCC’s biotechnology curriculum with the aim of helping develop Maine’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce.

The grant will build upon hands-on research opportunities that SMCC students have had at Bigelow Laboratory for several years, said Elizabeth Ehrenfeld, an adjunct professor in SMCC’s Biotechnology program.

“Our students’ knowledge and abilities are strengthened and expanded by participating in real-world research such as this,” she said. “The experience prepares students to continue their education or join the workforce in the scientific community after they graduate from SMCC.”

The grant will further be used to recruit SMCC students for summer fellowships at the University of Maine in years two and three (2018 and 2018) of the research project.