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University Development

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Meeting the demand for science and technology

For many years, the College has been awaiting approval for the Science II building and recently this project was approved. New laboratories will help educate skilled graduates who will be ready for the future. These strong programs and partnerships along with the help of the campus community will lay the foundation for student success.

For more information about the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, please contact:

Office of University Development
(916) 278-6989

Natural Science and Math grads Your gift supports students in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

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Giving in action:

Keck Grant River

(Left to right) Partick Foley, Kristen Ahrens, Peter Harman and Tom Riley collect samples along the American River on a research excursion funded by a grant from the Keck Foundation.

Keck grant funds student scientific research

It’s 10 a.m. on a May Thursday and students in professor Thomas Landerholm’s Advanced Cellular Biology class are buzzing around the room examining toxin samples. Landerholm describes the environment as “controlled chaos” and says, “If they’re not loud, they’re not working.”

Landerholm, vice chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, is at the forefront of the River City Science Project, an initiative to mobilize Sac State to adopt the nearby American River, both as a living laboratory and a cause. He says the river is catalogued as impaired by the federal government’s Clean Water Act.

The project’s classroom component is an effort to integrate scientific research on the river across 12 laboratory classes in the biological sciences department. The three-stage project is known as the Sustainable Interdisciplinary Research to Inspire Undergraduate Success (SIRIUS).

And thanks to a $300,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, Landerholm and the rest of the department can take the SIRIUS Project to another level.

“The Keck Foundation provides us the resources—I call it my toy budget—for equipment such as high-definition projectors and high-end fluorescent microscopes,” says Landerholm. “This will give students the chance to use professional equipment in an undergraduate classroom. It’s amazing.”

The Keck Foundation focuses its philanthropic efforts on scientific, engineering and medical research. Its gift to the SIRIUS Project is providing job-ready skills for the students involved.

“We’re not filling out worksheets in class. We’re using inverted fluorescent microscopes to look at self-collected slide images,” says molecular and cellular biology major Teo Courtney. “It’s empowering to think that I’m making observations that fully trained scientists do.”

Students will study the impact of human-derived toxins that are evident in the river in several courses ranging from Developmental Biology through Advanced Cellular Biology. Decision-makers can use the data collected from the project when determining policy changes or managing downstream effects.

Landerholm says the project is an opportunity to make students light-years ahead in their professional development—specifically in operating professional equipment, gathering research and writing grant proposals.

“The projectors allow us to take high-definition images from microscopes and display them on screen with the same detail so students can see them from the front or back row,” Landerholm says. “This creates a team science approach, which has revolutionized the biology classroom.”

“We're not filling out worksheets in class
We're using inverted fluorescent microscopes
to look at self-collected slide images. It's 
empowering to think that I'm making 
observations that fully trained scientists do.”
—Teo Courtney, molecular and cellular biology major

Kelly McDonald, assistant professor of biological sciences and co-chair of the cell and molecular biology subcommittee, is especially excited about the value the project holds for undergraduates. She notes the literature crediting undergraduate research experiences with improving student retention in science, academic performance, and motivation to pursue graduate work and careers in science.

The grant also sparked a new era in the biological sciences department’s relationship the Keck Foundation.

“We hope to expand on the model that’s been created and reach more departments,” says Landerholm. “We can really turn this into a campus-wide initiative and take this model further with our Keck partnership.”

Undergraduate research experience gives students an edge in the workforce. Please contact University Development at (916) 278-6989 to support this innovative curriculum.

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Giving Guide

Your support of Sacramento State provides life-changing opportunities for our students, preparing them to be leaders in their professions and communities.

Donor contributions allow the University to offer the affordable, high-quality education that is not possible through state funding alone. It strengthens our ability to offer access to talented faculty who are at the top of their fields, to hands-on learning that translates to real-world applications and to leadership opportunities that motivate well beyond graduation.

You can direct your support to programs and students across campus.