The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

97° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA program uses $1.1 million grant to make science more welcoming to students

    Science is hard, but programs on campus are working to make sure students stay in the field. The Arizona Science, Engineering & Mathematics Scholars Program, or ASEMS, is a program that targets STEM fields. Every year, the program accepts 25-40 first-generation students, students with disabilities and underrepresented students in STEM. The program launched a new pilot for new community college students transferring into the UA College of Science.

    “We provide academic support, foster confidence in building professional relationships with faculty and we expose them to career paths and research through lab shadowing early in their academic careers,” said Kimberly Sierra-Cajas, the coordinator for ASEMS and the director for the Office of Undergraduate Research.

    The ASEM Scholars program was awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s TRiO Student Support Services STEM grant, which they applied for through the UA STEM Learning Center. This $1.1 million grant will help increase the number of students ASEMS can serve by helping to hire staff, peer advisors and math and science coaches. The money will also go towards expanding the capacity of the ASEMS Success in STEM and Research Readiness courses and incorporating STEM community-building activities.

    ASEMS began when the UA Collaborative for Diversity in STEM formed a subcommittee to focus on the retention of diverse students in STEM. The committee noticed that not enough underrepresented students were completing STEM degrees, and that many students entering the UA didn’t know how to find and qualify for research opportunities. In spring 2011, the committee launched the ASEMS pilot program, which consisted of staff and faculty who have since been volunteering their time to teach classes, coordinate lab shadowing and mentor students.

    Students in ASEMS have access to peer advisors and courses that are essential to the program. The Success in STEM course, targeted for students new to the university, helps students by teaching them about learning strategies, professionalism, campus resources and interacting with faculty. The Research Readiness course, geared for sophomores and transfer students, exposes students to research with lab-shadowing opportunities. In this shadowing experience, over 60 professors have voluntarily hosted students in the past to observe and interact with post-docs, research assistants and graduate students about specific research interests and about higher education. Staff or faculty members ensure that students are doing well through grade reports. Additionally, students have peer advisors that share their own experiences, mentor the students and lead sections of the Success in STEM course.

    Dr. Frans Tax, a professor of molecular and cellular biology and the ASEMS faculty director, commented on the program’s mission.

    “With a nationwide shortage of scientists, only about half of the students who start as STEM majors finish with a STEM major,” he said. “We want to encourage those with a strong interest in sciences and math to graduate with a STEM degree by supporting them.”

    Almost 90 percent of the students that are at least juniors in ASEMS are still in STEM majors. Out of 50 students from the first two years, 38 have graduated and 95 percent of them have graduated in STEM.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search