Black Hills State University has been awarded a $598,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to implement the BHSU Integrative Genomics Transition Scholarship Program.

The grant award will provide financial and academic support for undergraduate biology majors with financial need who are committed to earning a master of science degree in Integrative Genomics (MSIG).

BHSU recently established one of the first formal graduate programs in Integrative Genomics, a newly emerging field, and is leading the way in meeting demands for increased interdisciplinary genomics training according to BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp.

The scholarship grant will provide support for Native Americans interested in pursuing undergraduate biology degrees at Black Hills State University. As a transition grant, scholarships will also be available to women, minorities, and students from under represented groups who are pursuing an Integrative Genomics degree.

The BHSU Integrative Genomics Transition Scholarship Program will award an average of $10,000 a year to 20 MSIG students over five years. In addition the scholarship grant provides 10 scholarships averaging $3,125 a year to undergraduate American Indian biology majors with an interest in pursuing the MSIG degree. The grant program will provide expert mentoring, academic support, and research training for the students.

Schallenkamp notes the University will focus the scholarship program on helping students with financial need transition into the science, technology, and mathematics workforce through an innovative technology-based master’s degree in Integrative Genomics.

“BHSU, which has a strong and growing biology program, will call upon the successful strategies of the undergraduate biology program,” Schallenkamp says. “The students will become a part of the science community and be prepared to help meet growing workforce demands in the science, technology, and mathematics areas.”

Dr. Holly Downing, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at BHSU, says the scholarship program will create opportunities for students who might not otherwise pursue an advanced degree.

“Removing the financial roadblocks to higher education is the most effective means to increasing the numbers of highly qualified students pursuing science degrees,” Downing says. ”This program will help students bridge the educational gap between an undergraduate degree and doctoral programs or medical school.”

The BHSU Integrative Genomics Transition Scholarship Program is under the direction of faculty members Dr. David H. Siemens and Dr. Garth Spellman.

According to Downing the new MSIG is one of only a handful nationwide. The Integrative Genomics degree at BHSU was approved with strong commendation by the Higher Learning Commission this summer. Integrative genomics is a new area of biological research that seeks to place the functional significance of an organism's many genes into an ecological and evolutionary context.

“This is a field that is breaking new ground in biology because it can help us understand the interplay between genetics and the ecology and evolution of organisms,” Downing says. “Graduates with this degree will be well prepared for advanced laboratory positions and continuing professional education in medical school or doctoral programs.”