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A $250,000 gift from the Dr. Raniyah Ramadan Foundation in Oklahoma City will help fulfill one of East Central University’s long-time goals providing a state-of-the-art research facility and program for undergraduate students.

That gift and a $701,100 grant from a Native American Serving Nontribal Institutions Program will provide the bulk of the funding for the Dr. Raniyah Ramadan Center for Undergraduate Research and Learning that will include two undergraduate research labs for biology and one each for chemistry, environmental health science and psychology.

The center will be constructed inside the lower level of the Education Building.

“This is an exciting project which will enhance the hands-on learning experiences of our students involved in our research-learning programs,” said ECU President John R, Hargrave. “This generous gift from the Ramadan family will have far-reaching benefits to the teaching and learning environment here at ECU.”

Research has long been the realm of graduate students on large college campuses. Only a few years ago, undergraduates rarely found an opportunity for real scientific research. Today, however, educators say most undergraduates who plan to earn graduate degrees feel compelled to do more than the minimum requirements for field or laboratory work, either to gain an advantage over other applicants or because some graduate schools and employers now expect it.

“Students need to start doing research. In any career it is very important. Good scores and a high grade point average are great, but schools and employers want to see all aspects of a student, to see if they are a team player or a leader. They want a well-rounded applicant.” said Raniyah’s sister, Suha Ramadan, a 1992 ECU graduate.

Dr. Duane C. Anderson, ECU provost and vice president for academic affairs, has advocated for such a research facility at ECU in recent years. ECU has successfully incorporated research projects in the McNair Scholars Program, Honors Programs and the numerous individual faculty research studies. And he believes that the Dr. Raniyah Ramadan Center for Undergraduate Research and Learning will mark a critical step forward at the university in promoting undergraduate research.

Anderson said the research projects will promote research-based learning and better prepare ECU students in all disciplines for their careers, including those studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Involvement in research also will help students meet their “engagement graduation” and “service learning” requirements, while a mentor relationship with a faculty member improves student retention.

“Having a year of biomedical research and co-publishing a paper on skin cancer, afforded me many opportunities for higher degrees and education,” said Salam Ramadan, another of Raniyah’s sisters and also a 1992 ECU grad.

This will give students practical experience in their occupational areas and a deeper understanding of subject matter, as well as improve their resumes and chances of being accepted into a graduate degree program. Conducting research in the lab will give students the opportunity to learn patience, organization, teamwork and persistence, as well as improve their work skills by learning how to analyze, think critically, write coherently, solve problems and manage and interpret data.

The total cost of the CURL is estimated at $2 million, leaving a little over $1 million yet to be raised.

“She would be really proud to know this facility will bear her name.” said Raniyah’s mother, Siham Ramadan.

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Raniyah Ramadan was a promising research scientist who grew up in Ada and passed away in July 2011. The Dr. Raniyah Ramadan Foundation was established by her parents, Dr. Tawfik and Siham Ramadan, and her sisters and brother to keep her memory alive and establish scholarships in neuroscience research and cancer research.

After graduating from Ada High School, Raniyah Ramadan earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1998 as well as two degrees at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center: a master’s degree in public health in 2000 and Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 2007.

She was a graduate research assistant in biomedical sciences at the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City from 2001 to 2007 where she researched the pathogenic mechanisms of bacterial endophthalmitis. She authored and co-authored several articles for academic journals.

Ramadan was awarded a prestigious post-doctoral research fellowship in ophthalmology and visual sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. After completing the fellowship, she moved in 2008 to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in New York where she worked on ocular disease models. She initiated the protocol for animal models of ocular inflammatory diseases that affect about two million Americans and also conducted the histology analysis for the company’s uveitis models in rats and mice.

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