‘Messengers for Science’


Analytical chemistry professor Anthony Kennedy leads students through an exercise during STEM Day at ECU, an annual event designed to encourage local high school students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. The students used equipment in the lab to solve a make-believe crime. Thanks to an NSF grant, ECU will now be able to offer significant scholarships to students pursuing majors in chemistry and physics. (Photos by Jay Clark)

ECU chemistry, physics scholarship program awarded $620K grant

ECU News Services

‘Fueling the Fire’

Roughly 300 high school students from eastern North Carolina experimented with concepts in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at ECU on Feb. 21.

The “future engineers and researchers” were enthusiastic about the day’s opportunities, said Shawn Moore, assistant director of the Center for STEM Education at ECU.

They participated in hands-on activities related to STEM degrees and careers. This is the third year ECU has hosted the event.

“This day will show them what the next step is in their academic career,” said Moore.

As an ECU graduate, Moore recalled having an interest in science when he was younger. “We’re fueling the fire. This is the opportunity for them to see beyond where they are now.”

Accompanied by their teachers, the high school students attended sessions led by ECU professors and students from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Sessions included engineering, physics, technology, mathematics, chemistry, biology, construction management, computer science, geology, geography, atmospheric science and math education.

Margaret Turner, public relations coordinator for the College of Technology and Computer Science, organized this year’s event. She said most attendees were high school juniors who are beginning their decisions about college.

“Learning more about what ECU can offer them is important at this point in their process,” said Turner.

The undergraduate and graduate students who assisted with the event take pride in helping expose the high school students to ECU and the education ECU offers.

– Jamitress Bowden

A grant exceeding half a million dollars will fund new scholarships for East Carolina University students with demonstrated financial need, significant academic potential and a passion for chemistry and physics.

The $620,884 National Science Foundation grant will provide $5,000 for 24 incoming freshmen, who may qualify for up to $10,000 in their sophomore, junior and senior years. In four years at ECU, “students could qualify for up to $35,000 in scholarship funds,” said Anthony Kennedy, assistant professor of chemistry and director of ECU’s forensic science program.

Financial need will be determined using federal guidelines, Kennedy said, and it’s likely “the majority of these students will be first generation students from an economically stressed region.”


ECU doctoral students Brian Swartz, left, and Eric Maertz prepare a target for an experiment in the ECU Particle Accelerator Laboratory, housed in the Department of Physics.

“They will become messengers for science, disseminating their experiences as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors and encouraging more talented students to follow in their path,” he added.

Scholarship recipients will interact with other STEM scholars as members of the chemistry and physics Living Learning Community at ECU. The Living Learning Community connects classroom experience to campus living by combining in one central location students who share similar academic goals and interests.

The Chemistry and Physics Community will be housed in the same residence hall as the Bio-Excellence and the ECU Honors College living learning communities to encourage multidisciplinary interaction among high performing students in diverse areas of study.

Allison Danell, interim chair of the Department of Chemistry, said the living learning community approach “forms the backbone” of the scholarship program. The community “will be enriched by the presence of first generation students and will continue to provide rewards to ECU beyond the funding period,” she said.

“The students we educate and mentor will share their experiences, encouraging many more young scientists to pursue an education in STEM disciplines, which will provide a strong foundation for innovation and economic development, not just regionally but nationally,” Danell said.

Recipients will also be encouraged to demonstrate a commitment to local and regional science activities, thereby instilling a sense of civic responsibility and awareness.

The scholarship program is directed by Danell, Kennedy and Anne Marie Spuches from the Department of Chemistry, along with Regina DeWitt and John Kenney from the Department of Physics. Both departments are housed within ECU’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.

Interested students should contact Kennedy at 252-328-9816 or kennedyan@ecu.edu, or complete an application for the living learning community at https://ecu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9GFP4Oz4Vp4LpEp.

Interviews for potential scholarship recipients will take place April 5 during ECU’s Spring Open House.