The Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation has awarded a $200,000 grant to support the purchase of instrumentation for the University’s Environmental Science Program.

The Alkek Foundation grant will provide necessary resources for upper-level student instruction and will give students better hands-on, real-world experience that will make them more competitive in the job market. The new equipment will include a $50,000 spectroradiometer, ground penetrating radar and resistivity systems, hyperspectral satellite imagery and advanced microscopes, as well as other instrumentation used to study soil, water, vegetation and minerals.

“Hundreds of students will benefit from this equipment each year,” said University President Thomas Mengler. “We are grateful for yet another fantastic gift from the Alkek Foundation, whose generosity is evident on our campus and among our alumni.”

The Environmental Science Program, first offered in Fall 2011, was designed to address the urbanization issues and depletion of natural resources connected to an ever-increasing global population. Students receive a strong foundation of scientific knowledge and professional skills, which enable them to assess a variety of environmental issues and develop and implement solutions. The degree plan allows students to gain experience in a specific area of interest – such as geosciences, chemistry or ecology – with both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts options.

The importance of the program is validated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts an increased demand of 19 percent for environmental scientists and specialists between 2012 and 2018. That rate of increase is much higher than the average increase expected for all other occupations during the same time frame.

“The Environmental Science faculty are extremely grateful for the Alkek Foundation grant,” said Melissa Karlin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at St. Mary’s. “This grant will provide instrumentation that will open up incredible opportunities for our students to become involved in research projects, collect and analyze rigorous quantitative data, and team up with faculty on student-authored research publications.”

The Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation has given about $3.3 million to St. Mary’s over the years. Albert B. Alkek, who attended St. Mary’s, was a longtime supporter of his alma mater and a member of the Board of Trustees. His name graces the University’s business building.

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