Travel grant program lets students share research

by Dalton Karwacki

The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ new Undergraduate Travel Grant Program is meant to help students get accustomed to a crucial part of professional life, according to Dr. Kelly Bidle, a professor in the Department of Biology and the chair of the program.

The program, which launched in September, provides funding to undergraduate students to allow them to travel to conferences in order to present their research. Students can receive up to $500 to help cover travel and other costs involved in attending conferences. Bidle said that professors often try to bring their students with them when they present research, but that this program helps students obtain firsthand experience without the financial burden.

“The idea came from the fact that, in the sciences, we often go to meetings to present our research,” Bidle said. “This program is great exposure for our students and it’s a great networking opportunity.”

So far, 12 students have been approved to receive travel grants. Senior Courtney Wilson presented at the 40th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego in September. Seniors Roxanne Guarino and Carey Young presented at the 2011 Sigma Delta Tau Conference in Pittsburgh last March.

Junior Nina Joffe received funds to present at the Ecological Society of America Meeting in Austin, Texas, this August.

Two students, junior Paul Ghattas and senior Lauren Musemeci will give presentations at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting of American Chemical Society at the University of Maryland in May.

Juniors Yulia Labko and Christine Sookhdeo and senior Michael McCormack are presenting at the 2011 Joint Meeting Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America and New Jersey Academy of Science at Montclair State University this April.

Earlier this month, seniors Rosalind Harvey, Emily Stadthaus and Corrine Bostic presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association.

Ghattas said that he was surprised to learn about the travel grants.

“I was unaware of the grant program until my research advisor, Dr. Danielle Jacobs, sent me the application and asked me to apply for the grant in order to get funding from the school to attend the conference,” he said.

After learning about the program though, Ghattas said that it was a great idea.

“Knowing about it now, I think that it is a wonderful opportunity, especially for science majors, to get funded to present their own personal research accomplished at Rider in other schools and places,” he said. “It gets the student some attention from graduate recruiters, but it also puts our school’s name out there.”

All full-time undergraduate students in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences are eligible to apply for a travel grant. In addition to the application, which requires an abstract of the research to be presented and an itemized budget for the trip, applicants must have a letter of support from their faculty mentor.

A nine-member committee, of which Bidle is chair, reviews the applications and decides which will receive a grant. The committee is made up of professors from various departments in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Bidle said that the committee looks at several criteria when making a decision, but that one is of particular importance.

“The student has to present,” she said. “It’s not enough to attend one of these conferences, you have to be a presenter to receive a grant.”

Applications can be submitted throughout the year, but the committee only meets to decide three times per year. Two dates have already passed, Oct. 1 and Feb. 1, but the final meeting is on May 1, when the $1,500 remaining in the program’s $5000 budget will be awarded. According to Bidle, any applications submitted by that date can be considered.

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