Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HU Receives Grant to Establish Biochemistry Program

Dr. Shanthi R. Paranawithana

Dr. Isai T. Urasa

The Hampton University Department of Chemistry recently received a $293,853 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish the new Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry degree program.

The grant will assist the department in procuring essential equipment and other resources needed to help the program grow. The curriculum for the program has been carefully designed to combine topics in biological, chemical, mathematical, and other key science concepts.

HU is one of four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) that offer an undergraduate biochemistry degree. The program gives HU students interested in medical careers a chance to become more competitive in the industry.

“The program will place Hampton University in a rather unique position,” stated Dr. Isai T. Urasa, chair of the Department of Chemistry and principal investigator of the NSF grant. “We will be one of very few institutions that offer an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, it will promote our visibility for student recruitment and also enhance our competitiveness for research and other programmatic grants.”

Biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes in living organisms. It deals with the structure and functions of cellular components, such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and other biomolecules. Biochemistry combines biology with organic and physical chemistry to reveal the mechanisms by which living things obtain energy from food; the chemical basis of heredity; and biological changes related to disease.

“It is widely understood that as in all science and engineering fields, minorities are acutely underre
presented in biochemistry and the biomedical workforce,” stated Urasa. “The newly established biochemistry program will provide chemistry and other science students with an expanded field of career options.”
Dr. Shanthi R. Paranawithana, assistant professor and coordinator of the newly established Biochemistry program, is also Co-PI of the grant. In addition to serving as coordinator of the biochemistry program, she is also teaching and mentoring students in this area. She has established a journal club, which she uses as a mentoring tool to reinforce critical thinking and responsible conduct in science and scientific research. Her mentoring activity extends to students in the Department of Biological Sciences as well.
Naima A. Gethers

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