USF awarded $1.5 million science grant designated for students

USF was awarded a $1.5 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to financially support undergraduate students in computer science, computer engineering and information technology majors.

As co-principal investigator for the grant with Rafael Perez, Kenneth Christensen is responsible for the preparation, conduct and administration of the grant across the Computer Science and Engineering Department (CSE).

“There are surprisingly a lot of students close to graduating that don’t finish due to financial reasons,” said Ken Christensen, professor and interim chair in the USF Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

The division of the five year grant is distributed among students as scholarships; 36 students with $5,000 per year, for all four years of education $20,000, for a combined $720,000. In addition to, 115 seniors being funded for their final year with $2,440, for a combined $280,600, and a grand total of $1,000,600 being allocated for undergraduates.

The remaining $500,000, is designated for faculty member support, two graduate students, miscellaneous needs within the department as well as an indirect cost that has been budgeted for the university.

Three years ago the CSE Department was previously funded by the State of Florida TEAm grant — the Targeted Educational Attainment program. In receiving this grant the department was able to hire faculty, graduate students as teaching assistants and grow as a department according to Christensen.

Last year 104 computer science students graduated along with 44 computer engineering and 27 information technology students. With a cumulative total of 175 students graduating from the Computer Science and Engineering Department last year, the TEAm grant has allowed for a 2.6 increase in degrees produced within the department according to Christensen.

A representative example for the assistance needed for the program is in direct correlation with President Obama’s campaign, “Computer Science For All,” according to Christensen. The campaign addresses the need for an increase in computer science majors.

“With 600,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs, 50 percent of STEM jobs are projected to be in computer science related professions, we are looking at a need for 300,000 more graduates per year in this area. The growth we have due to this grant will not only benefit the state of Florida, but also the country, to meet the need,” Christensen said.

To qualify for the grant, a defined need for the scholarship will be taken into consideration by the student’s  application with FAFSA. Grade Point Average and high school records are also expected to be determining factors for eligibility according to Christensen.

18 students will be selected in Jan. 2017 and 18 additional students will be selected in Jan. 2018.

Application instructions will be updated on the website in the upcoming weeks.