HCU College of Science & Engineering receives $500K grant from National Science Foundation 

Houston, Texas, April 4, 2024 – Faculty in the College of Science & Engineering (COSE) at Houston Christian University (HCU) will be able to enhance student performance in traditionally challenging freshman-level math and science courses thanks to a $500K project grant funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).  

Established by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, the NSF’s top priorities are to promote discovery in science and engineering, accelerate technology and innovation and advance diversity in science and engineering.  

Submission of the federally funded grant was spearheaded by COSE faculty members, Dr. Illya Medina Velo, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Director of Science Research, Dr. David Meng, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Engineering and Dr. Kamela Gallardo, Assistant Professor of Biology.  

Dr. Katie Evans, Dean of the College of Science & Engineering expressed her appreciation for the team’s efforts.  

“I am especially thankful for their leadership and effort in support of student learning, and I am eager to provide whatever administrative support is needed to ensure success of this important work,” said Dr. Evans.  

The funding will allow COSE faculty members to establish a “Peer-Led Team Learning” (PLTL) program designed to improve student success in the study of General Biology I, General Chemistry I and Calculus I. HCU will develop chemistry workshop materials using the recently explored Predict-Observe-Explain approach and develop multi-stage, problem-solving workshop materials for calculus and biology courses.    

The NSF invests in education and training programs that place a premium on attracting individuals from diverse backgrounds aimed at developing a pipeline of people equipped with the tools to solve pressing global challenges in science and engineering.  

With HCU’s designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, the PLTL project enables COSE to gain understanding of the program’s efficacy with Hispanic students who have been historically under-represented in STEM.  

“The idea is to support all students, but we want to ensure that our under-represented students succeed as well. We wrote this project thinking of our students who often lack peer support at home. We want to build the concept of collaboration in our students to succeed not only in these courses, but throughout their college life, and later as professionals,” said Dr. Medina, the project lead on the educational initiative.   

“Evidence suggests that collaborative peer teaching and learning is beneficial to students because they “join forces” to solve complex tasks. With the PLTL Program, aside from mastering lesson materials, students will develop better oral and social skills, which we expect to impact their motivation and persistence,” added Dr. Medina.   

Securing this invaluable funding will enable COSE to achieve its underlying goal of decreasing drop/fail/withdraw rates in these courses and impacting additional student outcomes, including post-degree employment and acceptance into STEM graduate and professional programs.   

For more information, visit the HCU College of Science and Engineering website. 

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About HCU College of Science & Engineering 

The College of Science and Engineering, informally known across HCU’s campus as COSE, offers a robust curriculum across several disciplines. As a college, COSE strives to be the best in the world at integrating fundamental principles of science, engineering and mathematics with historic Christian values and to empower its students with the tools and skills they need to serve both God and mankind. The College also has been empowered to provide full tuition for qualifying undergraduate and transfer students pursuing degrees in engineering, computing and math through the Grace Hopper Scholarship.  

About Houston Christian University 

For more than 60 years, Houston Christian University has equipped students to lead, collaborate and embody a deep sense of spiritual purpose. The University offers a wide range of majors, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs, as well as NCAA Division I athletics in the Southland Conference. Located in the heart of one of the nation’s largest metropolitan centers, HCU’ culture of excellence molds the next generation of educated disciples to be pillars in their communities, preparing them to think critically and biblically as they impact the world.