30 Years of “GROwth”

One of my favorite parts of my job serving as the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development is interacting on a daily basis with some of the top career scientists and engineers in their fields. On any given day, I get to discuss science with the very people who over the past few decades have helped the Agency achieve milestones in protecting the nation’s air and water, cleaning up our environment, and advancing public health.

On a personal level, these researchers help keep me energized and remind us of the excitement and possibility that led us to pursue public service in the first place. Understanding the impact a scientist can have on improving our environment and our health makes it all the more crucial to support the next generation of environmental scientists and engineers through programs such as the Agency’s Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowship program.

EPA announced today more than $1.65 million in research fellowships to 33 undergraduate students at 30 different colleges and universities pursuing degrees in environmental studies through GRO.

The 2013 recipients are eligible to receive a fellowship of up to $50,000 for their studies in natural and life sciences, environmental sciences and interdisciplinary programs, engineering, social sciences, physical and earth sciences, and mathematics and computer sciences. EPA’s GRO program also supplements the students’ education with an EPA internship, where they have the opportunity to work directly with our staff of world class researchers.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of this highly successful undergraduate grant program, which has supported the education of new generations of America’s workforce as they pursued the education and gain the foundational knowledge and experience needed to enter environmental and public health fields. Over the life of the program, we have watched students pursue their career dreams as they forge a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous future not just for themselves, but for their communities.

“The fellowship helped to stretch my curiosity about science and gave me the opportunity to develop my research skills,” says former Fellow and current Auburn University doctoral candidate Taconya D. Goar in The GRO Forum, the program’s newsletter. “My experience as a Fellow taught me that I was capable of much more than I ever thought I could do.”

Other past GRO fellows have gone on to have a huge impact in their fields of study and local communities.  For example, former Fellow Dr. Sacoby Wilson founded the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health (CEEJH) program at the University of Maryland. Another, Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, co-founded the Center for Environmental Public Awareness, a nonprofit organization that educates and trains community groups to achieve environmental justice.

This year’s recipients truly reflect EPA’s commitment to research that promotes a sustainable and healthy nation. In the not too distant future, some of them are sure to join the ranks of the passionate, dedicated scientists and engineers I work with today. I look forward to working with them.

For more information on the 2013 GRO awardees: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/gro13

For information about the GRO Program: http://epa.gov/ncer/fellow/

For more information on student opportunities: http://www.epa.gov/careers/internships/

Lek Kadeli is the Acting Assistant Administrator in the U.S. EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He has over 29 years of management experience in both government and the private sector, with broad experience in leading organizational change and improvement, policy development, resource management, information management and technology. Mr. Kadeli graduated from George Mason University in 1983 with a B.A. in International Relations. In 1986, he earned an M.A. in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.

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