Bowie State University officials planned to announce today that the school will receive $7.8 million during the next five years under a federal program designed to bolster the training of future black scientists and engineers.
The award, paid for by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is the largest single grant in the university's history.
"It's an institutional reform program," said Nagi T. Wakim, chairman of the school's computer science department. "It gives us a chance to do what we do, but do it better, and do more interesting things."
Bowie State was one of six schools selected by the National Science Foundation from the 57 colleges and universities that applied, according to federal officials. Spelman College in Atlanta also received a grant. The other four schools will be announced next month.
Dr. Wakim said the grant would help the school encourage students in the region to take science and math courses, rework its math and science curriculum and introduce students to research methods to spark interest in advanced degrees.
The grant will enable the university to give annual scholarships worth up to $15,000 to 50 students. President Nathanael Pollard said he expects to extend the contract beyond its maximum 11 years.
NASA officials said they intend to involve Bowie students at the nearby Goddard Space Flight Center, and faculty to work on a project to map the Earth's biosphere.
Dr. Gerald A. Soffen, director of university programs at the Goddard center, said he also hopes to transfer mission control for one of the 15 spacecraft operated by the center to Bowie State.
Roughly a third of full-time freshmen who entered Bowie State in fall 1988 graduated by the spring of 1995. But by the year 2000, according to Dr. Wakim, the school intends for 50 percent of all science and math students to graduate within six years.
The administration also intends to increase the number of students in math and science. Last year, the university awarded 21 bachelor's degrees and 48 advanced degrees from the department of computer science. Also, 30 bachelor's degrees were awarded from the natural sciences and mathematics