Our graduates help fill the need for these qualified professionals. The National Science Foundation classifies nine of the 14 departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as STEM fields, and we emphasize STEM literacy for all our students. These topics are integrated into majors, programs and research projects within the College, and our undergraduate students succeed in STEM fields. For instance, in 2011, 86 percent of our students who applied were accepted into medical school.
We are constantly working to improve the way we teach STEM subjects. We reward excellent teaching, encourage high-impact learning practices, provide targeted grants and scholarships, and attract students and faculty from underrepresented minority groups. We are also involved in university-wide STEM initiatives such as:
Texas A&M University ADVANCE Center for Women Faculty
An interdisciplinary collaboration of five colleges at Texas A&M, the ADVANCE Center supports women faculty working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The center aims to increase gender equity for women STEM faculty and to create a campus-wide climate for success and opportunity. Nine departments in the College are classified as STEM, but the College has provided funds that allow faculty from all our 14 departments to participate.
College and university diversity initiatives
STEM fields benefit from a diverse workforce with its wealth of new ideas and perspectives. We honor extraordinary efforts in enhancing faculty, student and staff diversity through a Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s Award. We work with Texas A&M to offer diversity fellowships. Our faculty members serve as mentors for student groups promoting leadership in agriculture and the life sciences. Read more about our work to promote diversity in the College.
Texas A&M University Tier One Program grants
Hands-on, interdisciplinary education programs can gain up to three years of funding from Tier One Program (TOP) grants. The program, also known as Integration of Multidisciplinary Research and Creative Activities into the Learning Experience, began when Texas A&M University President Loftin allocated $6 million toward funding new high-impact educational practices and experiences in July 2011. The program received 35 proposals in 2012 and funded 11. Five of these projects involve College faculty. In 2013, the program expects to fund three to four projects more.
The funded projects include the Aggie Undergraduate Genomics Corps, which recruits freshmen interested in the life sciences for training in cutting-edge bioinformatics, computational genomics and enhanced research experiences. Another project will allow sociology and ecosystem science and management students to work in the areas ravaged by the Bastrop fires.
The TOP program complements a $1 million investment by Texas A&M and the College in high-impact programs in study abroad, internships and undergraduate research.
Rewards for excellence in teaching
Nationwide, many of the students who enroll in STEM majors do not complete their degrees. Up to 60 percent of students beginning in STEM either change to non-STEM majors or drop out during the first two years of college, according to nationwide statistics cited by the American Association of Universities. Many of these students mention the poor quality of teaching as the main reason they did not stick with STEM. That’s why we encourage and reward excellent teaching at all levels. Four Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Awards recognize teaching and faculty mentoring. Through Texas A&M AgriLife, the Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence reward outstanding teaching by graduate students, faculty and staff.
Student research opportunities
Student research opportunities
Original research helps students become more invested in STEM subjects. We encourage our students to perform research and reward their efforts through scholarships, grants and awards, including Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Awards for both undergraduate and graduate research.
For example, scholarships from the National Science Foundation and the College allow Aggies to participate in a 10-week long, intensive summer research program at the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Students work on research projects that help develop next generation biofuels, enhance sustainable agriculture, and ensure the integrity and safety of the global food and fiber supply. These students—a diverse bunch— become active participants in the scientific life of the department and the university. Read more about this NSF-REU opportunity.
Another NSF-funded undergraduate research program, with the Department of Entomology, has students exploring topics such as genetics, molecular biology and toxicology. They learn fundamental techniques such as DNA sequencing, bioassays and scanning electron microscopy. The program has won awards for attracting students from underrepresented minority groups.
The Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics NSF-funded program lets students explore wide-ranging possibilities in structural biology, molecular genetics, genomics, enzymology and biophysics. Students participate in weekly meetings exploring the diversity of research opportunities in these fields, learn to read research papers critically, discuss research ethics and learn effective oral and written presentation skills. The department organizes social activities on weekends. Students receive a stipend, room and board on campus and some assistance with travel expenses.
A significant number of our students do internships in STEM fields with government and industry groups. Internships are required for students in some of our departments. For instance, the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology requires students to complete at least one internship. These students have interned with the EcoServe Corporation, the Monsanto Corporation, the North Louisiana Crime Laboratory, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey and other groups.
Read more on the College page for internship opportunities.