College of Science seeks to launch $1M endowment

A. Sue Weisler

RIT is seeking to establish a $1 million undergraduate research fund in the College of Science with help from a challenge grant from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation. The fund would be used to encourage students to pursue careers in science and mathematics and could be used support a variety of research, such as the ongoing research in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences led by Assistant Professor Susan Smith Pagano, left. Charmaine Merchant, second to left, is currently a fourth-year student and continues to conduct research in Pagano’s lab. She is shown here with Cassie Gould and April Meier, now 2014 alumnae, at right, examining wild fruit specimens to determine the nutritional health of migratory birds.

Rochester Institute of Technology wants to increase the number of students pursuing careers in science and mathematics by establishing a $1 million undergraduate research fund in its College of Science.

The Fred L. Emerson Foundation has offered to give the university a $250,000 challenge grant contingent upon RIT raising the remaining $750,000 in new gifts and pledges by Oct. 1, 2015. The university is actively seeking commitments from trustees, alumni, faculty, corporations, foundations and the community.

“The challenge grant presents us with an opportunity we at RIT—and the rest of the nation—cannot afford to pass up,” said Sophia Maggelakis, RIT Dean of the College of Science. “Our nation needs more students studying the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines if we are to keep up with the growing complexities and demands of the future. RIT is currently second in the nation among private universities in the number of STEM graduates annually, and this fund will go a long way to help us achieve our goal of being No. 1.”

The fund, to be called the Emerson Endowed Fellowship Program for Undergraduate Research in the College of Science, will allow RIT to double the number of undergraduate students conducting fulltime scientific research during the summer. The new fund will support 30 undergraduate researchers. Current funding is limited to 15 College of Science students during the summer.

The Emerson Fellowship will have an economic impact in Western New York by increasing the highly skilled workforce in the area. Regionally based Pictometry, iCardiace Technologies and Lockheed Martin, among others, routinely hire RIT College of Science graduates.

RIT is known for giving students experiential learning in traditional sciences and in emerging fields. College of Science students gained early skills in biotechnology when, in 1983, RIT launched the nation’s first BS degree. The university later started one of the first BS and MS programs in bioinformatics, teaching students to sequence and analyze genetic information. RIT’s College of Science is also home to the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, which offers the only BS, MS and Ph.D. of its kind. Likewise, the program in color science is an offshoot of imaging science with strong roots in industry and RIT-name recognition.

For more information, or to contribute to the Emerson Challenge, contact Mark Gaul, senior director of development for the RIT College of Science, at, or Susan Moline, executive director of RIT Foundation Relations, at


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