Steven Watts. "We have to train the next generation of scientists to move beyond our current abilities and aspirations." As an undergraduate, working in a research laboratory solidified Dr. Stephen Watts’ desire to develop a career in science. After joining the faculty at UAB, he was determined to provide similar opportunities and was quickly impressed with the interest of undergraduate students in developing and participating in research projects. “At a research university like UAB, students could participate in research at all levels, from simply volunteering in a lab to working towards the completion of an honor’s project.”

The department soon recognized the outstanding quality of many of these student projects — quality equivalent to the research efforts of those obtaining an advanced graduate degree. Unfortunately the undergraduate students completed these projects with little accolade, other than the appreciation of their mentor for a job well done. Their future in science was often in question.

This early intervention and development allows the Department of Biology to identify and support the next generation of advanced scholars.

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In 2000 Watts proposed the Fifth Year Master of Science program for exceptional students in sciences. With assistance from the Provost’s office, the Graduate School, and the Education Foundation, the program was created to allow students to dually enroll in the BS and MS programs after completing 60 undergraduate credits. These students are engaged in research as juniors (sometimes beginning as freshman), and many complete their undergraduate degree in their fourth year and their MS in the fifth year of the program. They are well positioned to move into advanced graduate degree programs, professional schools, or the technical work force.

Training the next generation of “super” scientists is an essential component in maintaining our national leadership in the advancement of science, medicine, and technology. Support for training these students is extremely limited, particularly in the current economic climate. Often these students engage in projects that are novel or high risk, not fundable through traditional mechanisms.

Initiated with a generous donation from Dr. Daniel Bishop, DDS, MS, PhD (a UAB alumnus) and Dr. Karla Bishop, DDS, MS, a research endowment fund was created. Through this fund we support activities related to student advancement in science, including stipends, research support, travel support to science conferences, professional development, and advanced mentorship training. Now, more than ever, our national challenges and opportunities require the identification and development of individuals who can excel in skills necessary for advancing society. Please join us in adding value to the next generation by giving now.