Biological Sciences couple awarded $750,000 grant
A couple that teaches biological sciences at Delaware State University has identified a workplace development need in the area of biopharmaceuticals and has obtained a $750,739 grant to establish an institute to address it.
Dr. Derrick Scott, assistant professor of biological sciences, and his wife Dr. LaTia Scott, an associate professor of biological sciences, are co-principal investigators of the grant from the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL). The funding will enable the couple to proceed with the development of the Biopharmaceutical Workforce Outreach, Research, Diversity, and Education (WORDE) Institute at the University.
“The overall goal is to prepare the next generation of diverse and knowledgeable biopharmaceutical workers through curriculum as well as hands-on resources,” Dr. Derrick Scott said.
The grant will fund the purchase of technology and equipment that will establish the biopharmaceutical capabilities at the University. It will also cover the cost of faculty professional development and the design of curriculum based on current industry workforce needs.
It will be one of only two comprehensive programs of this nature among HBCUs that prepare students to enter the biopharmaceutical workforce, according to Dr. Derrick Scott. (North Carolina Central University is the other HBCU with a similar program).
“In attending research conferences in the biopharmaceutical space, we saw very few people of color,” said Dr. Derrick Scott, a native of Varnville, S.C.
Dr. LaTia Scott, a native of Fort Washington, Md., said they saw that as an opportunity.
“We were invited to a NIIMBL conference in 2019 and pitched the idea there,” Dr. LaTia Scott said. “Merck was interested.”
Merck & Co., Inc., a U.S.-based multinational pharmaceutical company, is one of the largest such companies in the world. It is also one of the partners – along with Dr. Jim DeKloe at Solano Community College (Calif.) and Dr. Margaret Bryans at Montgomery County Community College (Pa.) – to join forces with the University in the establishment of the WORDE Institute.
The Institute also has a mandate to engage K-12 youths to increase their likelihood of entering into STEM careers, which is also a driving force behind their work in Extreme S.T.E.A.M., a business founded by Dr. LaTia Scott.
The couple met at a conference when they were attending different graduate schools and later married in 2012. In addition to their careers in academia, they are also the parents of three children.
Because of potential conflict of interest concerns over a married couple obtaining such funding, the University required that Dr. Sabrina McGary serve as the principal PI of the grant. However, she notes that Drs. Derrick and LaTia Scott are the driving forces behind this initiative.
“I am principal PI in name only,” Dr. McGary said.
Dr. Derrick Scott said the plan is to establish the Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing and Technology program as a new academic concentration under the Biological Sciences major.