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JCSU lands major grants for student research

Johnson C. Smith University was recently awarded several new grant awards, which will be used to increase the rigor of student research projects. The National Science Foundation awarded JCSU $114,279 for support of a project entitled “NSF REU Site: Examining the Intersection of Food, Housing, and Healthcare.”

Dr. Philip Otienoburu, assistant professor of bio-informatics and director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability, was principal investigator of the three-year grant, which expires March 31, 2021.  The project places students in research settings alongside faculty members and key community partners to define and creatively address social problems in the neighborhoods that surround JCSU, in the Beatties Ford Road corridor.

“We are building research capacity for the community good,” Otienoburu said, “conducting research along the corridor and reporting our findings to advise policy, make recommendations on change and highlight challenges communities in the West End corridor are facing.”

Funded for collaborative research, this first cohort is made up of 16 students from JCSU, Davidson College, and UNC-Charlotte, as well as other institutions. The scholars are researching and implementing tools such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, questionnaires and observational checklists to collect and measure data.

Cameron Mitchell ’19 is part of the Beatties Ford REU Project, which falls under this NSF REU Project. Mitchell is studying the potential of using cornerstores along Beatties Ford Road as fresh food access points, similar to Mecklenburg County’s Healthy Cornerstore Initiative. He is designing surveys and interviewing key stakeholders, with plans to create a geomap of corner stores and implement these tools.

“I hope to use this research for my senior investigative paper,” Mitchell said, “and help bring more fresh food to the area.”  

The National Science Foundation also awarded a grant of $399,911 to Johnson C. Smith University for support of a project entitled "Targeted Infusion Project: Innovating the Research Educational Experiences in Johnson C. Smith University's lower/upper level Chemistry Courses." Under the direction of Dr. Tracy Brown-Fox, assistant professor of chemistry, the award ends April 30, 2021.

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