S-STEM scholarship for research

The NSF S-STEM scholarship is a rare opportunity for students to gain experience in research and networking that will set them apart from their peers. Illustration by Kate Hickman.

Calling all freshman and sophomores: applications are open for Utah Valley University’s Biology S-STEM Scholarship program. This program is an extension of the National Science Foundation’s “Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program” and provides a full tuition scholarship to successful applicants in STEM, in exchange for their participation in guided research with a mentor. This program presents a rare opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in research, alongside networking opportunities and other resources that will set them apart from their peers.

To be eligible to apply for the program, a student must have completed their FAFSA application, have fewer than 60 credits completed and be majoring in a biological field. These majors include: biology, botany, biotechnology, bioinformatics, or microbiology. Applicants are expected to submit a personal essay discussing their experience in STEM and motivation to continue in those fields, as well as a summary of the research topic they are interested in pursuing.

The application will remain open until April 1, at 5 p.m.

Alyssa Tidwell, a senior in biology and a current S-STEM scholar, reflected on her experience with the application process, saying it was “not more difficult than other scholarships, but the reward was much greater–a multi-year benefit that covered tuition and funded the research I want to do.” After explaining the difficulty many students face when trying to pay for college, she reiterated the value this opportunity had in her college career. 

Beyond providing financial relief to Tidwell while she works toward her educational goals, she shared some of the benefits this opportunity will provide for her beyond college. “Taking this time in college to focus on research has given me the opportunity to learn useful and marketable skills that make me competitive in the job market as an applicant to graduate programs,” said Tidwell. She observed that this scholarship provides an advantage to students conducting research by covering tuition and alleviating some of the pressure to accrue debt from student loans. 

Associate professor of biology and one of the primary investigators mentoring participants in the program, Dr. Geoffrey Zahn, expanded on the program experience. “The Biology S-STEM scholarship comes with a few strings attached. This is a feature, not a bug,” said Zahn. “The ‘strings’ include an immersive mentored research experience where you work with a faculty member to design and conduct an independent research project, and travel to present your results.” 

“As an S-STEM scholar, not only is your tuition paid, but you also receive an allowance for books/fees and an annual research and travel budget,” stated Zahn as he detailed the less-obvious benefits of the program. In addition to exceptional research experience, this program is unique from other scholarship opportunities because it provides the participants with an opportunity to build a community with other student-researchers. 

“You will also be involved with a cohort of students going through the same experience, though their research topics may differ from yours,” stated Zahn. “This cohort team is an excellent support group, and you will also help the Biology faculty study what factors are most important for mentoring … [Participants] are supported in networking with professional scientists from around the globe and have a chance to really contribute to new human knowledge.”

“Science isn’t ‘knowledge’ but ‘a way of knowing.’ By doing research, you get to see behind the scenes of how knowledge is generated and tested,” Zahn shared, emphasizing the importance of the work done by student-researchers. “There is a reason that graduate and professional schools look so favorably on applicants who have extensive research experience; Doing research is the single best way to improve your understanding of science as a whole.”

For more information regarding the application process and required materials, see the S-STEM application information page

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