Friday, August 1, 2008

Science Foundation Arizona fellowships attract and support NAU research

[Source: Inside NAU] - Science Foundation Arizona is investing in Graduate Research Fellowships at Northern Arizona University to help the state build a world-class science and engineering infrastructure.

This is the second year the foundation is funding fellowship programs at the three state universities. The fellowships are to ensure there is a pipeline of researchers to become leaders in advancing the state's competitive research capacity in information technology, sustainable systems and biomedical research.

The foundation is providing NAU $900,000 to fund 10 two-year fellowships to support student graduate researchers. The fellowships cover research costs, expenses and full tuition up to $40,000 annually.

More good news for NAU is that the foundation has doubled its funding from last year and has broadened the program's eligibility beyond the doctoral level to include master's degree students in engineering.

"Extending the fellowship eligibility to master's level students in engineering reflects the program's purpose—to develop innovative thinkers who can create new ideas, new products and even new companies for Arizona," said Laura Huenneke, vice president for Research.

She noted that Science Foundation Arizona's interests in sustainability, bioscience and technology development complement NAU's areas of research and that "the timing of the fellowships is perfect." "The fellowships are really drawing attention to our new Master of Science in Engineering Program, focused on sustainable technologies and advanced materials and design," Huenneke said. "As a university, we've been very selective about developing graduate programs that fit closely with our research strengths, and the foundation's interests match our areas of focus very well."

These new research fellows join seven doctoral-level fellows, selected last year by the foundation to support research in biological sciences and in forestry.

According to Debra Larson, associate dean for the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences, the fellowships plant the seeds to grow the science skills needed to meet the state's growing economic and technology challenges.

"These fellowships not only attract and support quality students from around the world, they assist our faculty in getting projects up and running and contribute a great deal to the research," Larson said.

For example, Jeff Leid, an associate professor in biology and associate director for NAU's Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, is collaborating with graduate research fellow Emily Cope, who received her undergraduate degree at NAU. She is working with Leid to pursue fundamental answers associated with chronic sinus infections, which affect up to a fourth of the U.S. population.

"It is highly likely that her work in my laboratory will dramatically and directly impact patient health across the country," Leid said. "Without the strong support from Science Foundation Arizona, much of this work would be unattainable."

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