Scholarship funds help biotechnology students afford college
Posted on May 28, 2020
Dr. Sarwan Dhir (left), a Fort Valley State University plant biotechnology professor, is using a newly awarded grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to recruit students to the plant-science biotechnology program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently awarded Dr. Sarwan Dhir, a Fort Valley State University plant biotechnology professor, a $149,980 Capacity Building Grant. These funds will help increase awareness of the plant science-biotechnology program among underrepresented minorities. The goal is to assist FVSU students with tuition costs and strengthen recruitment and retention while improving partnerships with high schools and postsecondary institutions.
As principal investigator, Dhir said he and two colleagues will help Georgia high school teachers recruit students to FVSU’s plant science-biotechnology program. FVSU experts Dr. Jacques Surrency, an associate professor of plant and environmental soil science, and Dr. Hari Singh, a research associate professor of plant science, serve as the co-principal investigators.
Dhir said each year, 10 high school graduating seniors will receive $3,000 annually for a maximum of two years. To reach students, he plans to collaborate with eight Georgia high school science teachers from Peach, Bibb and Houston counties this summer and pay them a $1,200 stipend.
“These teachers will serve as ambassadors of FVSU to encourage students to attend through the plant science-biotechnology program. It is a win-win situation for the teachers and students,” Dhir said.
The plant science program coordinator said the science teachers will select the students from their respective schools to attend FVSU in summer and fall 2020. The scholarship recipients must be full-time students and have an overall 3.0 grade point average. They will be required to attend mentorship seminars and participate in summer internships. To enhance their career preparation, students will also engage in field trips to major research institutions, career counseling, scientific meetings and hands-on laboratory activities.
Dhir explained that the selected students must have demonstrated financial need as well. He said the program aims to eliminate the need for off-campus employment that could inhibit a student from reaching their highest academic potential as a plant science-biotechnology major.
In addition to providing financial support, Dhir and his team look forward to taking various approaches to promote the program. These approaches include offering presentations at high schools, a biotechnology summer academy for high school students, career awareness workshops, pre-college workshops and FVSU campus visits.
Dhir said this annual scholarship opportunity will expand the student training experience and improve the educational and research training capacity at FVSU in the areas of biotechnology, genomics and plant science. Appreciative that this is his seventh Capacity Building Grant, Dhir recalls how the first grant he received in 2003 helped him build FVSU’s plant science-biotechnology program.
“The program produces students who are working in careers such as the health profession, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Homeland Security. Students also pursue medical school and Ph.D. programs,” he said. “There are almost 200 students who have graduated from the program and are working all over the country. FVSU’s program is one of the nationally recognized model biotechnology programs for all 1890 institutions.”
FVSU’s plant science-biotechnology major is designed to develop the knowledge and skill needed to address the growing challenge of supplying humanity with abundant, high-quality food, fiber and specialty crops in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive way. In addition, students studying biotechnology can work toward a Master of Science degree. For more information, visit /academics/plant-science or contact Dhir at (478) 825-6887 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- FVSU Agriculture College