COE faculty member part of multidisciplinary National Science Foundation grant

Information boxRossana Boyd, the principal lecturer and director of the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Certification Programs in the College of Education, is one of five UNT faculty members who recently received grant funding to participate in an innovative project that will bring together the university's experts in biology, engineering and education.

The $833,722 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund research related to the "biosynthesis, regulation and engineering of C-lignin," a linear polymer found in plants that can be converted into a new carbon fiber.

The two UNT professors who discovered C-lignin in 2012, Richard Dixon and Fand Chen of the Department of Biological Sciences, received the three-year grant to work in collaboration with Boyd as well as Nandika D'Souza from the College of Engineering and Rajeev Azad from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

Boyd's role in the project is to integrate the concepts of this research with education, specifically the education of middle school English Language Learners (ELLs). In order to bring modern biology-related science to ELL classrooms, Boyd will implement a teacher summer internship program at UNT.

"This type of project is not happening anywhere in Texas," Boyd said. "There are a lot of research grants out there, but they are not necessarily turning research results into classroom practice. Research results are published, but not necessarily converted into lesson plans."

Three science teachers from North Texas school districts will take part in this internship program each summer. They will learn about new laboratory techniques, research results, meet researchers, and develop lesson plans in Spanish and in English for ELL students for later implementation in their classrooms.

Then, during the third summer, nine ELL students will be chosen to participate in a five-day summer camp at UNT during which they will learn about science as a career, laboratory basics, and plant sciences from the scientists working on the research project.

Boyd is seeking three motivated, bilingual, Hispanic middle school science teachers to participate in the internship project. They will each be paid $4,000 for attending the half-day sessions at UNT from June 7-30, 2016, and will receive $200 worth of laboratory materials for their classrooms.

In addition to participating in the multidisciplinary National Science Foundation research grant,  Boyd and fellow College of Education faculty member Karthigeyan Subramaniam recently received $206,000 for this year's implementation of Project NEXUS, a Title III National Professional Development five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Boyd and Subramaniam are co-principal investigators of this project.

Project NEXUS focuses on providing professional development for mathematics and science in-service teachers from Denton ISD and Lewisville ISD and pre-service teachers from UNT.  Its goal is to help reduce the achievement gap between secondary school English language learners and other students in the subjects of mathematics and science. Teachers learn about the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) Model, English Language Proficiency Standards, and how to adapt content to match ELL students' varying levels of language proficiency.

"English Language Learners are struggling because of their lack of English language proficiency," Boyd said. "Without English language knowledge it is difficult for them to access the content knowledge. Therefore, teachers have to know how to provide a linguistic bridge to the content."

Project NEXUS' total funding is $985,000 for five years. The $206,000 is the fourth-year installment. Funds are being used to provide scholarships for students, books, stipends for pre-service teachers, substitute pay for in-service teachers, contract pay for consultants and more.