Ohio Wesleyan has earned a new National Science Foundation grant to help prepare students for futures in high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. (Photo by James DeCamp)

EPIIC Endeavor

Ohio Wesleyan Earns National Science Foundation Grant to Help Build STEM Workforce

By Cole Hatcher

DELAWARE, Ohio – The National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding a three-year $395,968 grant to Ohio Wesleyan University as part of the federal agency’s new Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) initiative.

The grant was awarded to Ohio Wesleyan faculty member and principal investigator David Markwardt, Ph.D., the university’s Herbert L. and Margaret Wright DuPont Endowed Professorship in Biological Sciences, along with co-principal investigators Craig Jackson, Ph.D., OWU professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, and Hanliang Guo, Ph.D., OWU assistant professor of Mathematics and Computer Science and the department’s industry liaison.

Ohio Wesleyan will undertake a project titled “EmpowerEd – Building the Future Workforce Together” in collaboration with five other institutions that earned their own NSF grants to support the venture. The other recipients are the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (New York), Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology (Boston, Massachusetts), Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, New York), Montgomery College, Rockville Campus (Maryland), and University of Maine at Farmington.

“By 2029, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a talent shortage of nearly 3.5 million workers in the STEM fields,” OWU principal investigator Markwardt said. “We think Ohio Wesleyan is well-suited to specifically address this shortfall.

“We intend to leverage our outstanding science faculty to support students interested in entering this job market,” he explained. “In addition to the practical and technical skills they learn with their major curricula, OWU graduates possess the problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills required to succeed in these fields. The EPIIC project will help us develop a framework that will ensure OWU graduates are contributing to this vital workforce for years to come.”

More specifically, Markwardt said, Ohio Wesleyan will use the NSF funds to develop an integrated internship program with corporate partners in the central Ohio region. OWU faculty will work closely with students and industry mentors to prepare the students for their off-campus internships and to extend and enhance their projects once they return to campus.

Ohio Wesleyan’s grant is part of a $19.6 million EPIIC investment awarded to nearly 50 institutions nationwide.

In announcing the new grants, Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP), stated: “NSF aspires to accelerate the nation’s research and innovation enterprise and empower all Americans to participate in the science- and technology-driven workforce.

“EPIIC reinforces NSF’s commitment to develop new, inclusive innovation ecosystems,” Gianchandani stated, “by connecting diverse networks of partners to work together to drive the expansion of key technologies – and the technology workforce – in the U.S. and, in turn, address pressing national, societal and geostrategic challenges.”

In addition to EPIIC, Ohio Wesleyan also is working to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education through other collaborations and initiatives, including a 2023 Choose Ohio First (COF) grant, two Intel initiatives funded by the company’s Semiconductor Education and Research Program, and the NSF-funded Ohio Pathways to Undergraduate Computing Success project.

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s STEM-related and other majors at owu.edu/majors.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature experience, the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to understand issues from multiple academic perspectives, volunteer in service to others, build a diverse and global perspective, and translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience through internships, research, and other hands-on learning. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “Best Colleges” lists. Connect with OWU expert interview sources at owu.edu/experts or learn more at owu.edu.