Breaking barriers

Rutgers-Camden prof awarded $2.5-million grant for STEM initiative

County Commissioner Virginia Betteridge presents Dr. Kwangwon Lee (third from left) with a plaque marking the milestone in Rutgers-Camden’s pursuit of excellence in STEM education.

The county board of commissioners has honored Dr. Kwangwon Lee, a distinguished biology professor at Rutgers-Camden, for his pivotal role in securing a $2.5-million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

- Advertisement -

The grant will power the Driving Change Initiative, a transformative program designed to break down barriers to student success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

The initiative – conceptualized and led by Lee – aims to address challenges hindering student participation and achievement in STEM disciplines. The program’s focus is on fostering diversity by providing opportunities for students who may feel underrepresented or distant from institutions offering STEM programs.

County Commissioner Jeff Nash expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative.

“Dr. Lee’s advocacy for STEM has paid off with this prestigious grant, which is only being awarded to five other research institutes in the country,” Nash explained. “With this grant, Rutgers-Camden can continue working to break down barriers when it comes to getting students involved in STEM, and with Dr. Lee leading the charge, I know they will achieve great things.”

Lee is a biology professor who specializes in the genetic and molecular mechanisms of circadian rhythms. His extensive body of work includes groundbreaking research on circadian clocks and their roles in fitness. Notable among his contributions is the development of a Unified Theory of Circadian Clock and a Two-Step Model of Human Entrainment.

County Commissioner Virginia Betteridge, who presented Dr. Lee with the award, shared her excitement about Rutgers being one of the select institutions to receive the grant. She emphasized the importance of Dr. Lee’s work in tearing down barriers for students and providing major opportunities for participation in STEM projects.

“It’s impossible to put into words,” she noted. “Rutgers was one in five to receive a grant. (It’s) a remarkable experience for not only students, but for Dr. Lee. We are very happy and elated that the students of Camden County can now participate in the STEM project.”

Betteridge elaborated on the Driving Change Initiative, highlighting its mission to ensure fair and equitable education in Camden County.

“Your wealth shouldn’t be a deciding factor in getting an education,” she emphasized, expressing her commitment to sitting at the table and securing more grant opportunities for Rutgers.

The award presentation at the Joint Health Science Center in Camden earlier this month showcased the collaborative efforts of Lee, Betteridge and, a significant step toward breaking barriers and fostering a brighter future for STEM education in Camden County.

- Advertisment -