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$400,000 NSF grant to create psychology research program

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) has received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduate programs and professional fields.

The three-year grant, under the NSF’s Targeted Infusion Project (TIP), will establish an honor’s curriculum in the Department of Psychological Sciences (DPS) for psychology undergraduate majors. Dr. Naomi Hall-Byers, associate professor of psychological sciences, said this will be only the second program of its kind at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

"The project is designed to keep underrepresented students engaged in scientific discovery, provide an avenue for focused student-faculty interaction, and expose students to current and emerging technology,” said Hall Byers. "Meeting these goals and objectives will create a paradigm shift within the DPS and improve the preparation and success of underrepresented students entering into STEM graduate programs and/or professional fields."

The program will create three new research-focused courses and a summer cultural neuroscience institute that will immerse students in mentored research. The first cohort of honors psychology students will begin taking courses in spring 2018, and the institute will begin in summer 2017.

In addition, the grant also will fund:

  • Renovations and upgrades of lab spaces at Coltrane Hall.
  • The establishment of a psychology colloquium series, which will bring a diverse group of researchers and scholars to WSSU, helping to encourage interest in psychology on campus, Hall-Byers said.

According to NSF statistics, African-American students make up only about 5 percent of STEM graduate enrollment nationwide.

According to a White House report, the United States will need to add 1 million more STEM professionals by 2022. HBCUs, engines of economic growth and ladders of advancement for generations of African-Americans, are seen as critical to help meet the need for STEM professionals.

A 2011 report from the National Science Foundation found that 24 percent of Black doctorate recipients received their bachelor’s degree from an HBCU.

Hall-Byers is the principal investigator (PI) on the grant; Dr. Michele Lewis, associate professor and chair of Psychological Sciences Department, and Dr. Nelson Adams, professor of behavioral sciences and social work, are co-PIs. Senior personnel are Dr. Jill Keith, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Dr. S. Maxwell Hines, professor of education.

Students who are interested in the program should contact Dr. Hall-Byers at 336-750-8800 and or hallna@wssu.edu.

WSSU’s Department of Psychological Sciences offers a structured curriculum that helps students develop a thorough understanding of concepts and principles that attempt to explain human behavior and mental processes.

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