by Joy Drohan
Dr. Malcolm J. D’Souza, professor of chemistry and dean of interdisciplinary/collaborative research at Wesley, was honored in May for the third time with an Innovator of the Year recognition from the Delaware BioScience Association, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding the state’s science economy. The award was for creation of the STEM Undergraduate Research–Center for Analytics, Talent, and Success (UR-CATS). The center serves as an umbrella organization housing various programs to help build a STEM-capable workforce with increased participation from women and underrepresented minorities.
“Wesley enrolls a large population of students who are underrepresented in the STEM community,” said Malcolm D’Souza. “A large percentage of our students come from underserved high schools. To give those students a chance to achieve STEM success, we have put in place several programs to help them.”
Through external federal and state support, the STEM UR-CATS allocates resources for engaging academic interventions, leadership, and service programs. STEM UR-CATS provides intensive research experiences for students to pursue in-depth investigations under the supervision of STEM faculty; integrates undergraduate research experiences into courses; and encourages and prepares students, especially minorities, for professional and graduate programs.
Through STEM UR-CATS students learn about informatics, including formal statistical analysis and programming for the management of large data sets, and spatial data analysis, all highly sought-after skills in emerging employees. The program also supports faculty workshops, STEM student success, innovative programs for high-school seniors, STEM outreach and volunteer opportunities, and more.
Since the 2014 implementation of the National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded S-STEM (Cannon Scholars) scholarship program at Wesley and associated federal STEM support programs such as the NSF-EPSCoR, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-NIGMS-INBRE, the Delaware Sea Grant, and the NASA Delaware Space Grant programs, more Wesley students are participating in volunteer work and undergraduate research. Retention rates in the STEM learning community are in the mid-90% range. Furthermore, 100% of Wesley’s STEM graduates place into STEM fields. The STEM UR-CATS program makes it easier for employers and graduate programs to recruit Wesley’s STEM graduates.
“We are very excited to give our students these empowering opportunities to reach their full potential,” said D’Souza.