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Cheyney University Chemistry Professor Leads Students to Scientific Research

November 6, 2013

Cheyney University Chemistry Professor Dr. Adedoyin Adeyiga

Cheyney University Chemistry Professor Dr. Adedoyin Adeyiga

Cheyney University Chemistry Professor Dr. Adedoyin Adeyiga recalls that when he interviewed for a faculty position at Cheyney University in 2004, he saw potential in the University and its students.   “The labs and classrooms weren't up to date, but something told me I could bring some grants in.”  After he was hired, he attended grant-writing workshops to become more familiar with funding opportunities and he became more aggressive at pursuing grants.

Since then, the African-born Adeyiga has secured over $5 million in grants, mostly from the National Science Foundation (NSF)  to increase minority participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). As a result, the funding has enriched the University’s programs and drawn students to the science program.

According to Adeyiga, what keeps the students and faculty moving in the right direction with their careers is the grants.  “These grants allow us to hire upperclassmen as tutors. As paid tutors and lab assistants, they can find work on campus instead of having to find a job at Walmart or somewhere else off campus. They make better use of their time, and they can be here during daytime hours when their peers need help. Likewise, the underclassmen follow in their footsteps,” Adeyiga asserts.  According to him, the BEAMS (Building Engagement and Attainment in Mathematics and Sciences) and BEAR (Building Excellence and Access through Research) projects combined have supported 80-100 students since 2005.  Currently 20-22 students receive partial or full tuition through the NSF BEAR program which also supports faculty development, curriculum enhancements and educational research, all in an effort to increase recruitment, retention, training and on-time graduation of STEM students.

While studies show that there is underrepresentation of minorities in STEM, Adeyiga says that the grants CU has received are aimed at improving that situation.  In STEM, he says, there is a big push to make sure that graduating students get into a competitive graduate program, which is why Cheyney sends students to Penn, PSU and Temple for summer internships. Some Cheyney students are current students in  Drexel’s Bridge to Doctorate program.  All of these things, he says, make the students competitive.  

In addition, Adeyiga says, a partnership with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) resulted in a $4 million grant over four years for Cheyney, CHOP and the Sickle Cell Foundation of Philadelphia to embark on sickle cell research.  “Cheyney benefitted by sending our students and faculty to CHOP to partner with researchers over there.  They worked on different projects involving sickle cell and most of the students who were part of the CHOP training are now in PhD programs around the country including Paul Gwengi, Denis Madende, Tolani Adebanjo, Nicole Jackson, Ezekiel Crenshaw and others.”

While some of his time is spent finding support for his programs, it’s evident that Dr. Adeyiga makes himself available to the science students and has a great rapport with them.  Students regularly come in and out of his office.  “I have open office hours -- an open door policy. That’s what we’re supposed to do,” he says matter-of-factly.  “The students come in with average backgrounds, and we find a way to turn an average student into a great student. For us, that’s the challenge that we face. So when you hear that a CU graduate goes to medical school or graduate school, the faculty should be applauded.”

Adeyiga says Cheyney faculty members prepare students well for graduate school.  “We collectively build up their confidence to hang in there.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, this adage couldn’t be more true at Cheyney’s STEM department.”

Adeyiga pushes the idea of graduate school because he believes that it takes more than four years to really see the progress in students.  “We (CU) lead the State system in the number of PhDs per 100 Bachelor’s degrees received,” Adeyiga says.  “We could double or triple those numbers with more money. If I get three PhDs out of 100 students, we are doing fantastic.”

Adeyiga will continue to look for more money in the form of grants or funding mechanisms. As part of the University’s 21st century Renaissance, construction of a new 50,000 square-foot science building is nearing completion.  “It’s amazing what you can do with money. With the new Science Building opening in about nine months, the University will have up-to -date equipment and a more efficient facility.”

A native of Nigeria, Dr. Adedoyin Adeyiga moved to the United States to study when he was 19 years old.  He began his undergraduate education at  Christopher Newport University in Virginia in 1988.  After graduating with a chemistry degree in 1991,  Adeyiga went on to earn his doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1995.