20 Jul 2022

$1.5M STEM scholarships to advance future biologists with data science skills

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has been awarded $1.5 million for scholarships for low-income students who are pursuing degrees focusing on the biological application of data science. The five-year grant through the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) program, Student Training through Immersive Data Science Education (STRIDE) and will fund 67 scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students.

alexander stokes headshot
Alexander Stokes

“The progressively more data-rich nature of biological sciences creates the need for enhanced professional preparation in data science to improve the competitiveness and employability of our graduates,” said UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno.“This is a tremendous opportunity to give our students invaluable skills to advance them in their future careers.”

In addition to receiving tuition, selected students in the STRIDE program will benefit from professional development resources, including workshops and internships to build their resumes and develop career readiness skills. Majors include: biology/biological sciences, biochemistry, botany, biological engineering, microbiology, molecular biosciences and biotechnology, molecular cell biology, natural resources and environmental management, tropical plant sciences and zoology.

“Biology is an increasingly computational discipline,” said Principal Investigator Alexander Stokes, Assistant Professor in Cell and Molecular Biology with the John A. Burns School of Medicine. “Today’s biologists, whether they are health practitioners, medical researchers or ecosystem scientists, are all living in the era of big data. This program is about making sure that the future biologists trained by UH have the data science skills they need to be successful in their field.”

gwen jacobs headshot
Gwen Jacobs

Hawaiʻi Data Science Institute (HI-DSI) Director and STRIDE co-principal investigator, Gwen Jacobs, echoes the need for data science training for future biologists. “Our state is really recognizing that data science is central to our future health, sustainability and economic development. Programs like this will foster the workforce we need and at HI-DSI we are delighted that STRIDE students will benefit from the training workshops and professional development programs we have developed.”

Eligibility requirements

Eligible undergraduate students should have unmet financial need and at least 30 credits with a 3.0 cumulative GPA in a biological science major. Eligible graduate students should be enrolled in an MS or PhD program with an estimated three years to graduate in a non-clinical program.

As part of the two or three year program, students will participate in weekly seminars with guest speakers sharing their expertise in various areas of data science, training workshops, DataSkills training modules, projects and a data-intensive thesis or dissertation project paired with a HI-DSI collaborating research supervisor.

Stokes said they were inspired to write the grant having seen their own biomedical research pivot toward using techniques like artificial intelligence and machine learning in drug discovery and health equity.

“I realized firsthand the need for workforce development and training in this area, coupled with the fact that we have many talented students in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific that need financial support in higher education, so S-STEM Scholarships can really help those students pursue their dreams,” Stokes said.

For more information, email astokes@hawaii.edu.