Based in Laredo and serving a student body of 8,400, many Hispanic and first-generation college students, Texas A&M International University is now in its second year of a Welch departmental grant supporting its chemistry program.
“Welch funding is so important to our mission,” said Alfred Addo-Mensah, associate professor and administrator of the grant “We had lost focus at one point, but we regrouped and reapplied, and are already seeing the impact.”
TAMIU offers an undergraduate degree in chemistry, and last year, seven of its students, including six women, took part in the independent research program. They worked with six faculty in chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology/chemistry, and materials science/engineering areas.
For example, one student worked with a faculty member to design functional molecules to extract heparin. This work resulted in a paper in a peer-reviewed journal. Another worked with a petroleum engineering professor to analyze a new compound of crude oil, carbon dioxide and methane using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Participating students presented their work at four conferences.
Student success stories including one student who, after presenting her research involving photochemistry analysis at the spring American Chemical Society conference, was recruited into a doctoral program at Old Dominion University. Another student received offers from four universities before selecting The University of Texas at Austin for his graduate studies. In total, four students went on to graduate school or industry positions in chemistry and medicine.
“The Welch support allows us to provide small scholarships so students can work for six weeks, or longer, with a principal investigator. It gives them the opportunity to do research and gain the skills graduate schools are looking for.”
The Welch grant also helps the department maintain research equipment so that students can learn how to operate instrumentation used in chemical research.
“We serve a lot of women and minorities through our program, exposing them to new learning and career opportunities,” Dr. Addo-Mensah said. “The Welch Foundation support goes a long way to make a generational impact.”
He added, “While we don’t have the ‘name’ of some other schools, the grant helps us offer students the chance to do research and be mentored. This helps bridge the educational gap and gain the qualities that make them attractive candidates for grad schools and industry.”