As a struggling economy presents new challenges for university budgets, and researchers wonder how federal funding for their investigations will change under the next Congress, one group of young scientists has to be feeling fortunate. They are the 100 graduate students recruited to Arizona universities as the second cohort of Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) Graduate Research Fellows. The program is the nation’s largest of its kind.
A total of 180 Fellows are now enrolled at Arizona’s three public universities in master’s and doctoral programs in biomedical research, information and communications technology, and sustainable systems. The fellowships underwrite research costs, living expenses, and full tuition up to $40,000 for up to two years. Around 40 percent of the new Fellows are conducting bioscience-related research.
“The forward-thinking leaders who have helped build this program for Arizona understand the critical role that graduate students play in building the research engines that power tomorrow’s industry and economy,” said Maria Allison, vice provost and dean of the Graduate College at Arizona State University.
“In the 21st Century, it is all about brain power,” said William Harris, SFAz president and CEO. “Now SFAz has the largest non-federally funded graduate research fellowship program in the United States focusing on science and engineering. That is a brain power pipeline that creates excellence for our universities and ensures our state’s future competitiveness.”
The program, with an outlay this year of $8.8 million from SFAz, and matching support from the universities, has attracted top graduate students from around the country and beyond. At the beginning of the academic year the program gathered all Fellows at the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 facility for a conference, an effort in part aimed at fostering community among the Fellows and strengthening their ties to the state.
“These activities will help unify the students at the highest scholarly level,” said Andrew Comrie, associate vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College at UA. “This is one of the highest profile fellowship awards we have, and recruiting students of this caliber can only help us in recruiting and retaining the best faculty.”
Expansion of the program to include funding for master’s-level students has enabled new fellowships in certain engineering programs that are not offered at the doctoral level, said Laura Huenneke, vice president for research at Northern Arizona University.
“It reflects the program’s purpose—to develop innovative thinkers who can create new ideas, new products, and even new companies for Arizona,” Dr. Huenneke said. “The fellowships are really drawing attention to our new Master of Science in Engineering Program, focused on sustainable technologies and advanced materials and design,” she explained. “As a university, we’ve been very selective about developing graduate programs that fit closely with our research strengths, and SFAz’s interests match our areas of focus very well.”
UA received a grant this year from SFAz totaling $4.4 million to support 50 Graduate Research Fellows. ASU received $3.5 for 40 Fellows, and NAU received $900,000 for 10 Fellows.
For more information:
ASU news release, 08/21/2008
NAU news release, 07/23/2008
UA news release, 07/23/2008