USD Receives Major Awards for Undergraduate Research and Electron Microscope

Two Awards Totaling $500,000

One University of San Diego student is researching the metabolic intensity of the Eared Grebe, a unique diving bird. Another student spent last summer exploring the latest data mining techniques in computer science. And a third is examining how Mexican immigrants from Oaxaca have developed their own unique ethnic enclave in Los Angeles.

Hundreds of USD students are engaged in exciting and creative research in a variety of disciplines and the Los Angeles-based W.M. Keck Foundation is recognizing USD’s potential to become a leader in undergraduate research with an award of $250,000 to create a centralized office of undergraduate research. The Fletcher Jones Foundation, based in Pasadena, is also awarding USD $250,000 for a new scanning electron microscope for science research.

By 2016, every undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences will be given an opportunity to participate in research in his or her discipline. USD also expects to increase the number of students who receive prestigious fellowships and scholarships and significantly increase the number of publications, presentation and performances with students and  faculty as co-authors.

“We are very excited about the opportunities these generous awards will provide,” said Julie Sullivan, USD provost and executive vice president. “Undergraduate research has been and will continue to be a hallmark of the USD undergraduate experience.”

Sullivan credits USD  faculty for recognizing the importance of having a centralized undergraduate research space and the need for it to have a visible place on campus so that students and faculty can both access its benefits.

“Undergraduate research has a long tradition, particularly in the sciences,” said Mary K. Boyd, dean of USD’s College of Arts and Sciences. “But universities now see opportunities for undergraduate research and creative activity in the humanities, arts and social sciences. The Keck Foundation grant will allow us to move into these emerging areas. High quality research programs enhance the lives of students and greatly increase the opportunities for graduate, professional and personal development.”

USD already has several programs to encourage undergraduate research including the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) and PURE (Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience) that introduces first-generation and minority college students to math and science research before their freshman year. USD also participates in the TRIO-McNair program supporting economically disadvantaged and first-generation college students who aspire to earn doctoral degrees.

The Keck Foundation grant, matched by $225,000 in funds from USD, will establish the undergraduate research office to centralize these efforts, disseminate best practices on undergraduate research and promote a culture of undergraduate research among current and prospective students and faculty in all disciplines.

“With these funds we believe USD can become a national model for undergraduate research that will benefit other colleges and universities,” Boyd said.

The Fletcher Jones Foundation’s $250,000 award for a scanning electron microscope will provide an opportunity for students to have hands-on research experience with a state-of-the-art instrument and help advance the scholarly agenda of USD’s science faculty. USD already offers the only undergraduate course in electron microscopy in San Diego and the new instrument features increased resolution, ease of operation, improved photography and digital capability. Acquiring the electron microscope is part of USD’s plan to create a modern imaging center that would include several other high-tech microscopes.

The new electron microscope also will benefit USD’s outreach efforts to local community colleges and high schools. USD is currently involved in a three-year partnership to bring advanced science classes to Chula Vista’s Mater Dei High School.  One of the most exciting features, added Boyd, is that it is networkable with the capability to look at organisms anywhere in San Diego. “We are very grateful to the Fletcher Jones Foundation for their continued support of USD,” she said.

The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning chartered in 1949; the university enrolls approximately 8,200 undergraduate and  graduate students and is known for its commitment to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and community service. The establishment of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies has brought the University’s total number of schools and colleges to six. Other academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business Administration, Leadership and Education Sciences, Law and Nursing and Health Sciences.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.