Nearly $15M in new federal grants to boost sciences

An SF State student in a lab coat writing in a lab.

Nearly $15 million in new federal grants over the past few months will boost SF State’s efforts to prepare the next generation of diverse, well-trained scientists.

Funding will support new programs aimed at preparing diverse, well-trained scientists

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at San Francisco State University have received a major boost thanks to millions of dollars in new federal grants that will support the University’s efforts to foster a diverse and well-trained new generation of scientists.

The College of Science and Engineering received nearly $15 million in National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health grants between June and September. These grants will fund a variety of projects, from a new program to diversify computer sciences to a groundbreaking partnership aimed at engineering machines from living cells.

“Our students and faculty conduct research that not only pushes boundaries within their academic fields but also demonstrates SF State’s commitment to increasing diversity in the sciences,” said Keith J. Bowman, dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “This investment in our campus recognizes the important work they are doing and will allow us to continue to make a difference in the lives of our students and the broader community.”

The funding includes more than $1 million in NSF Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grants, which are awarded to projects that specifically engage undergraduates.

“Tomorrow’s well-trained, diverse science workforce depends on ensuring that today’s students are given early opportunities to work on research, develop their skills and deepen their understanding of science and engineering,” Bowman said. “I’m immensely proud of the degree to which our faculty involve undergraduate students in hands-on, cutting-edge research projects.”

In addition to supporting hands-on learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students, the funding will also contribute to nationwide efforts to increase the number of underrepresented individuals working in STEM fields. SF State is one of the nation’s most diverse large universities, and broadening participation in STEM has been a longstanding focus of the College of Science and Engineering.

Read more below about some of the most recent federal grants and the programs they will support.

Computing for all

Computing is among the fastest growing areas of projected job growth, yet few K-12 schools in the U.S. offer computer science courses. In addition, the number of underrepresented minorities, women and people with disabilities in the computer sciences is low despite nationwide calls to broaden participation. To address this, SF State is partnering with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) on the San Francisco: Computing for All Levels & Learners (SF CALL) project, which received a nearly $300,000 grant through the NSF INCLUDES program. SF State faculty and staff will work with SFUSD to develop an inclusive computer science curriculum covering pre-kindergarten through graduate studies and train educators to teach the curriculum to a diverse group of learners. The University will also provide advising, mentoring and leadership training; place students in computer science internships at nearby companies; and incorporate computer science into its Metro Academies College Success program, which supports first-generation, low-income and historically underrepresented students.

Breaking ground in ‘cell engineering’

Can automated machines be engineered from living cells? A new Bay Area partnership, including SF State, aims to find out. The groundbreaking Center for Cellular Construction, led by the University of California, San Francisco, will include eight SF State faculty and seven graduate students as well as provide summer research internship opportunities for undergraduate students. The Center is funded through a five-year, $24 million Science and Technology Center grant from the NSF. Additional partners include the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; the San Francisco Exploratorium museum; and IBM. SF State’s portion of the grant is approximately $1.5 million.

Read more about the Center for Cellular Construction at

Access to new, cutting-edge equipment

Two awards from the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program totaling $1.16 million will allow students and faculty access to brand new, cutting-edge instrumentation. One grant will fund a new 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer that will be used at five institutions with a primary emphasis on undergraduate and master’s level education. They include SF State, San Jose State, Sonoma State University, California State University, East Bay and Dominican University of California. The other grant will support a new atomic force microscope that will be used by science and engineering faculty and students from SF State as well as collaborators at UCSF. The NSF limits each university to only two MRI program funding requests per year, and having both proposals funded in the same year is rare. The program provides organizations with opportunities to acquire major instrumentation that supports the research and research training goals of the organization and that is used by other researchers regionally or nationally.