Chemistry Professor Andreas Franz works with students in chemistry lab

Summer research grants allow students the opportunity to advance their education, making them more competitive for applying for employment, further graduate study or post-graduate fellowships.

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Academics

Stauffer Charitable Trust challenge grant to boost summer undergraduate research

More Pacific undergraduates may have the opportunity to enhance their education with summer research in chemistry and biochemistry, thanks to a $500,000 challenge grant.
Feb 21, 2014

Amelia Watson, Mik Minier, Farah Shaheen and Jasper Visser all learned by doing.

They each reaped the academic and personal rewards from undergraduate research at University of the Pacific.

Now more Pacific undergraduates may have the opportunity to enhance their education with summer research in chemistry and biochemistry, thanks to a $500,000 challenge grant from the John Stauffer Charitable Trust. Pacific learned in December that it had received the grant that over the next five years will be matched one-to-one by donors to create a $1 million John Stauffer Undergraduate Summer Research Endowment in Chemistry and Biochemistry. The endowment will support the research of about 10 undergraduates each summer by providing the financial backing that will allow the students in the program to concentrate on their research rather than on finding a summer job to make ends meet.

"One of my goals as dean is to ensure that all graduates have the opportunity to engage in experiential learning," said College of the Pacific Dean Rena Fraden. 


"The Stauffer Charitable Trust challenge grant in chemistry and biochemistry will allow us to support more students in the summer to work with their professors in their research labs," said Dean Fraden. "It is a fantastic gift and a model for what we'd like to be able to offer every single student at Pacific."


Some students and alumni have already reaped the benefits of the type hands-on learning for which Pacific has become known.

chemistry lab

"Studying at University of the Pacific has given me an incredible experience," said Watson '14, a chemistry major. "The small class sizes, the faculty who care about their students, and top research facilities all have confirmed my decision to be at Pacific. Undergraduate research has helped me immensely in critically thinking about designing experiments and in interpreting data accurately and clearly in a variety of different fields."

Watson received the department's Edith and Emerson Cobb Award for outstanding academic achievement in chemistry and a travel grant to present research at the National Undergraduate Research Conference in Lacrosse, Wis., last spring. She plans to go to graduate school.

"I am confident that my experience at Pacific has laid a strong foundation in learning," said Watson.

Minier '10, who graduated with bachelor of science degrees in biochemistry and mathematics, and a bachelor of arts in Japanese, is now a senior Ph.D. candidate in the Lippard Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He credits his Pacific experience for allowing him to achieve his current position at MIT.

"Chemistry Professor Liang Xue's lab at Pacific provided an environment where I could learn proper chemical techniques under individualized guidance," Minier wrote in a letter to prospective donors. "I learned how to best conduct an experiment, use my reasoning skills to determine why certain results occurred, and to figure out what could be done to change the outcome of the experiment." 

Mik Minier '10

Preparation for the Future

"I was given my own project in organic chemistry, as well as a project in biochemistry, which allowed me to practice independent learning and a variety of chemical research. Not only did these experiences enhance my resume for admission into MIT's top graduate program in chemistry, but also prepared me for the challenging environment of an MIT chemistry lab." -- Mik Minier '10, PhD candidate

Some are thrilled by undergraduate research.

"Research was one of my most exciting activities on campus, where I enjoyed being treated as both a colleague and a student," said Farah Shaheen '11, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and is now a medical student at the UC Davis School of Medicine who expects to graduate in 2016.

Professor McCallum works with student in lab

The process for getting a grant will be strenuous, but the effort should have profound effects for the undergraduates involved and Pacific.

"It'll be competitive to get these grants," said C. Michael McCallum, professor and Department of Chemistry co-chair, said of the anticipated application process. "So, it will probably increase the total number of applications we get. It will encourage more students to consider staying and doing research. It could actually encourage some students to come here as freshmen with that possibility to do research."

McCallum and fellow professor and co-Chair Andreas Franz said that student-centered experiential learning can be invaluable for undergraduates planning to go onto graduate school or to work at research laboratories. The grant will allow more students to take advantage the opportunity to co-author papers, travel to conferences, and work closely with graduate students and professors on their undergraduate research. That close interaction with graduate students and professors will allow the selection committee to pick students who fit the grant criteria.

"It is rigorous and we have expectations, provided they're productive and contribute a lot, they can enhance their resume quite a bit," said Franz. "So, it opens doors for them to professional schools, to graduate schools and, if they graduate with a bachelor's of science degree, it opens doors industry and government positions."

That was the case for Visser '11.

"The positive learning environment helped me gain more confidence as an individual, a student, and a scientist," said Visser, who earned a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry, now works on neuroscience research at UC Berkeley's Molecular and Cell Biology Department. 


"The opportunities to present at conferences, to publish papers and to be exposed to a plethora of laboratory equipment and techniques contributed to a strong educational and scientific foundation," said Visser. "Overall, my work at University of the Pacific has furthered my career as a researcher by developing my critical thinking, analytical, and problem solving skills."


The John Stauffer Charitable Trust

The John Stauffer Charitable Trust, a private foundation based in Pasadena, was established in 1974 under the Will of the late John Stauffer, a principal officer, director, and shareholder of the former Stauffer Chemical Co., founded in San Francisco in the 1880s. Following the wishes of Mr. Stauffer, the Trust primarily supports California hospitals, universities, and colleges. In recent years, the Trustees have emphasized grants to fund undergraduate student research in chemistry and biochemistry at such colleges and universities as University of the Pacific, California Lutheran, Caltech, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Occidental, Pepperdine, Pomona, Redlands, Scripps, UC Berkeley and Westmont.