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$100K Gift Challenge Supports Undergrad Science, Math Research

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Kelsey Nannini has been a science buff since she was a child. Now as a Cal State Fullerton biological science major, her interest in marine ecology has motivated her to study brilliantly colored marine polyclad flatworms along the Southern California coast.

Physics student researcher Alyssa Garcia analyzes and compares model gravitational waveforms for colliding black holes. She has presented her research at conferences, including in Scotland, co-authored a journal paper in Classical and Quantum Gravity, and was part of the CSUF faculty-student research team that played a significant role in the 2015 discovery of gravitational waves.

For both students, their scientific experiences were made possible by the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Gift Challenge, in which $100,000 was raised to directly fund the research endeavors of 45 undergraduates this academic year. Science and mathematics students received research stipends, allowing them to focus on their projects with faculty mentors.

Physics alumnus Dan Black ’67 launched the challenge in 2015-16 with $50,000 and the remainder was raised from 80 University donors. Nannini and Garcia both shared their research accomplishments and thanked the donors at the May 4 “Celebrating Undergraduate Research” event, hosted by the college.

“Getting this funding to do research has prepared me for the next level in my academic journey,” said Garcia, who graduates this month and was admitted to 10 graduate schools. She begins the doctoral program in physics at Brandeis University in Massachusetts this fall.

Given the success of the fundraising effort, Black announced at the event that he will give another $50,000 for a second gift challenge to raise an additional $100,000 for undergraduate scientific research during the 2017-18 academic year. “Let’s do it again,” Black declared to the cheers of faculty members and students.

To invest in the research of students and their professors “is probably the most rewarding thing I can do,” said Black, a longtime donor.

Following Black’s announcement, University donor and business alumnus Jeffrey Van Harte ’80, chair of the Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors, took up his challenge and is donating $5,000 toward the second gift challenge.