Four SDSU grad students awarded elite fellowships


South Dakota State University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry received a $525,000 grant to fund educational expenses of highly qualified U.S. citizens seeking a doctorate in chemistry or biochemistry.

Patrick Lee, Rapid City; Angelica Reyes, Chino, Calif.; Brandon Scott, Slippery Rock, Pa.; and Sonia de la Torre-Melendez, Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, will each receive a $30,000 per year stipend and a $13,755 educational allowance for tuition, fees and other educational expenses through a U.S. Department of Education program called the Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need. The fellowships are awarded for up to four years.

The GAANN program helps graduate students with excellent academic records, who also demonstrate financial need, to pursue the highest degree available in their course of study. The program’s primary focus awards grants to women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and students who are under-represented in the chemical sciences.

GAANN grants were awarded to programs and institutions across the United States to sustain and enhance teaching and research in areas needed to advance the nation’s research agenda.

SDSU was one of only six universities in the nation to receive this grant. Others included the University of Nebraska, State University of New York, Washington University, Emory University and University of Alabama.

“The fellowship removes the financial barrier that many graduate students face, particularly those from families that are not prepared to help pay for the cost of a graduate education,” said James Rice, head of the SDSU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “GAANN fellows are free to focus on their required coursework and the research project that is the intellectual center of their Ph.D. degree program.”

The program begins with an eight-week orientation for which all new graduate students in the department are required to participate. It not only helps orient the students to the department and its graduate program, but it also provides them with training to teach the laboratory portions of the foundational chemistry courses that the department offers in support of many other majors and programs on campus.