BGSU’s Dr. Moira van Staaden one of two recipients of the 2017 Olscamp Research Award

Moira van StaadenBGSU’s Olscamp Research Award is given annually by the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research to a faculty member for outstanding scholarly or creative accomplishments during the previous three years. Dr. Moira van Staaden, biological sciences, more than meets those criteria. She received the 2017 award at the at the Faculty Excellence Awards on April 13.

The award includes a $2,000 cash prize and a reserved parking spot for a year.

Van Staaden’s research productivity and impact have been significant over the past three years. She has received about $1.5 million in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) grant support. More recently, she received a $3.1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve quantitative literacy. Her national reputation is evidenced by her serving on six NSF review panels during that span, along with her yearlong appointment as a 2015-16 visiting scholar in education at Harvard University.

Van Staaden’s research publications, which previously include landmark publications in major outlets such as Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are now focused on assessing the impact of STEM education initiatives. Overall, her commitment to improve STEM education, a critical priority for the United States, has brought her prominence on the world stage, said Dr. George Bullerjahn, biological sciences, who nominated van Staaden.

“It is a distinct pleasure for me to nominate Professor Moira van Staaden for the 2017 Olscamp Research Award,” Bullerjahn said. “Moira has been an exceptionally productive colleague for the 19 years she has been at BGSU, and given her sustained success over the past three years, she deserves a place among the best scholars at the University.”

Van Staaden is a neuroethologist, a scientist who approaches animal behavior from evolutionary and neuroanatomical perspectives. Given her excellent research productivity over the years, she had earned a reputation that allowed her to branch out successfully into STEM education at the undergraduate level.

Improvements in STEM education is a long-stated national priority, and van Staaden set that precedence in biology at BGSU when she made it a career choice. Her vision for transforming STEM was rewarded in 2008 with her first major NSF education grant of $2.5 million (SETGO), followed by three smaller awards, $1.2 million and $266,000. All three of these awards extended into the three-year window for Olscamp Award consideration.

In particular, the SETGO award provided improved pathways for the transition of science students from a two-year institution to a four-year University degree program. The results from these awards yielded two peer-reviewed papers that helped pave the way for the current $3.1 million NSF-funded Project SEA Change, focusing on quantitative literacy among undergraduate students at BGSU and Owens Community College.

“Having worked at BGSU for 29 years, I have seen firsthand the erosion of math skills among my students,” Bullerjahn said. “I am enthusiastic in my support of this new project aimed at addressing this decline in math capability. “It is also notable that Professor van Staaden requested $2.9 million, and the NSF awarded almost $3.1 million. I have never heard of a case in which NSF decided to award more money than was listed in the budget. This reflects the importance in which NSF viewed the project. It is clearly addressing a key nationwide STEM priority.”