Saint Leo University faculty members have been busy this summer advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and experiential learning for students. 


In 2021, the university received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. This federal funding comes from the foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. 

The NSF grant enabled Saint Leo to offer scholarships to biology and mathematics majors, who choose a minor in education. Those students accepted into this prestigious program are known as ACES (Awarding Career Educators in STEM) Scholars. They receive a scholarship worth more than $18,000 per year for each of the final two years of their bachelor's degree programs.

And this summer, the faculty directors of the program took four ACES Scholars — current students and alumni —  to two different conferences. They attended the Southeast Regional Noyce Conference in Mobile, AL, which had a STEM focus, as well as a Noyce Summit in Washington, D.C.


Directors are Dr. Laura Altfeld, chair of the Natural Sciences Department, Dr. Holly Atkins, chair of the Undergraduate Education Department, and Cheryl Berry, instructor of biology and life sciences. 

The goal of the Noyce Scholarships/ACES Scholars Program is to create more STEM teachers. Saint Leo hopes to fill the void, especially in Florida, to produce enough graduates to meet the needs of Florida’s K-12 student population. 

Currently, three Saint Leo ACES Scholars are employed as teachers, Berry reported. “We have a new scholar joining our program in the Fall [Semester] 2023 which brings us to a total of six scholars — three current students and three alumni.”

Program alumni who all are employed as STEM teachers include: Leala Oulette Starz ’22, Jacob Austin ’21, and Chris Bove ’23. Current scholars in the program are Samantha Leger, Nichole Long, and new for Fall Semester 2023 is Fiona McLaughlin.

Several Saint Leo scholars will attend the Florida Association of Science Teachers (FAST) conference in October, to be held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. 

At this summer’s Southeast Regional Noyce Conference, Saint Leo’s Noyce/ACES Scholars participated in the design, construction, and operation of an underwater drone at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and joined in the exploration of marine specimens off the coast of the island as another STEM activity. At the Noyce Summit, ACES Scholars Leger and Bove along with faculty members Atkins and Berry, made a presentation about the achievements of Saint Leo’s STEM Ed teacher’s program. 


Recent Graduate to Teach Middle Schoolers

Bove, who graduated in May 2023 with his bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in chemistry and education, will teach at Raymond B. Stewart Middle School in Zephyrhills, FL, for the Pasco County School District. 


Receiving the Noyce Scholarship was beneficial to Bove, he said. “It meant to me that I have proven myself to be successful enough to be recognized for such a great scholarship, and that I will always have the support of Saint Leo and the Robert Noyce Foundation when going into teaching.”

Bove, the son of Christopher Bove and Maria Bove, graduated from Wharton High School in New Tampa, FL, and said he always has been interested in science. “I want to teach STEM because I believe that this field is what has been pushing innovation and technology throughout history,” he said. “Biology is my favorite subject.” 

And he said he believes that Saint Leo University and the ACES Scholars Program has prepared him for his teaching career.

“Saint Leo helped me tremendously; all of my professors have been so great and kind to me,” Bove said. “I also love the class size. A lot of people do not understand how special it is to take a college course and have only 20 other students with you; it allows you to make personal connections with your peers and professors compared to 300 students and one professor at most universities. They also gave me great scholarships so attending Saint Leo was affordable compared to public universities in the area.”

Some of the best memories he at the university were hanging out and studying with his best friends Hannah Evers and Juan Conteras Jimenez, Bove added. “One of my favorite memories was attending the Astronomy's Club's star gazing event hosted by Dr. [Harsha] Perera [assistant professor of physics and general science]. Another great memory was winning the ‘Best Actor in a Biochemistry Movie’ in Dr. [Sergiy] Borysov's [associate professor of biology] class.”

Learn More About ACES Scholars Program

The degree programs in the ACES program include:

● Bachelor of Science degree in computational mathematics - education minor, in the College of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science (CARDS), and

● Bachelor of Science degree in biology - education minor, in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Allied Services.

Interested in applying for the ACES Scholarship?

Complete the ACES Application Form and ACES Recommendation Form and submit them at