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Undergrad Research Focus of $250K Grant

SDSU scientists and student researchers will study the connection between climate change and the spread of infectious disease.
Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Research has documented the environmental impact of global climate change from severe weather to sea level rise.  Now, a new grant from the prestigious W.M. Keck Foundation will allow researchers and undergraduate students from San Diego State University to study yet another effect of climate change-the spread of infectious diseases.

“Global climate change influences the dissemination and severity of infectious diseases – from changes in the geographical distribution of insect vectors to the transmission in food and water,” said Stanley Maloy, dean of SDSU’s College of Sciences and the program’s director.  

The three-year, $250,000 grant will provide funding for an intensive summer program, followed by a year-long research experience for undergraduates that will include hands-on training in field studies, molecular laboratory techniques and more.

Interdisciplinary program

The interdisciplinary program will involve SDSU faculty from across the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields including microbiology, psychology, public health, computational sciences, chemistry, ecology, geology and more.

The research will focus on the Tijuana River Estuary, a sensitive natural resource near the border between San Diego and Tijuana.  Additional research will utilize data available about the recent outbreaks of infectious disease worldwide, such as the cholera outbreak in Haiti and the E. coli STEC outbreak in Germany.  

“Countering these problems will require scientists with expertise that crosses traditional scientific disciplines so these students will have critical knowledge and skills that will be increasingly useful as climate change continues to change the world around us,” Maloy said.  

Increasing interest in STEM fields

According to Maloy, there is extensive evidence that undergraduate research is one of the most effective ways to increase the number of students in STEM disciplines.  

“Participation in undergraduate research decreases the time required for graduation and enhances student success, particularly among underrepresented students,” Maloy explained.

An initial cohort of 24 freshman and sophomore students, the Keck Scholars, will be recruited for the program beginning summer 2012.  

About the W.M. Keck Foundation

The W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company.  The foundation is one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations with assets of more than $1 billion.  In recent years, the Foundation has focused on science and engineering research; medical research; undergraduate education; and Southern California. Each of the grant programs invest in people and programs that are making a difference in the quality of life, now and for the future.

This is the third grant SDSU has received from the Keck Foundation, and the first in more than a decade.

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