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NSF, NASA step up minority STEM-focused awards

August 16, 2018

As the National Science Foundation points out in a recent press release, people of Hispanic descent comprise 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, but only 6 percent of people working in STEM-related occupations.  Other minorities, including African Americans and Native Americans are also underrepresented in the career paths most critical to maintain American preeminence in innovation and science. New funding rounds distributed by three federal initiatives at NSF and NASA intend to help improve the imbalance.

NSF announced the first 31 undergraduate STEM education projects to be funded through the new Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) program on Aug. 8. Totaling $45 million, the new awards are intended to help build STEM related capacity at these HSIs and increase retention/graduation rates of Hispanic STEM students. More than 60 percent of Hispanic students attend college at an HSI. Several of the recipient institutions of the inaugural awards — five community colleges and three four-year universities — have received little or no NSF funding in the past, according to NSF.

The program also funded a five year HSI STEM education Resource Hub at New Mexico State University, to be delivered in collaboration with Dona Ana Community College and California State University-Northridge.  Descriptions of all 31 awards — which went to institutions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Puerto Rico, and Texas  — are available here.

NSF’s Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) program announced eight $4 million awards to help connect minority-serving institutions to large-scale material research facilities already funded by NSF at other, larger universities. The goal of each six-year collaboration is to help attract and retain more underrepresented students in materials research and to support advance degree attainment by the population.

Partnerships selected for this year’s awards draw on collaborations spanning thousands of miles:

  • California State University, Northridge and Princeton University Center for Complex Materials;
  • Fort Lewis College and Norfolk State University STROBE Science and Technology Center;
  • Wisconsin-Puerto Rico Partnership for Research and Education in Materials;
  • Jackson State University and University of California, Santa Barbara Partnership for Research and Education in Materials Research;
  • University of Texas at El Paso and University of California, Santa Barbara Center for Energy and Biomaterials;
  • Tuskegee University and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Partnership for Research and Education in Multiferroic Polymer Nanocomposites;
  • Center for Interfacial Electrochemistry of Energy Materials (a partnership among three Hispanic Serving Institutions in Puerto Rico and Cornell University); and,
  • Hampton University-Brandeis University Partnership for Research and Education in Materials.

Meanwhile, the NASA Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) announced a second round of awards for K-12 STEM initiatives. The $2.3 million distributed to seven minority serving institutions brings the total of recent funding from the program to nearly $4.0 million (first round covered in Digest here). The current round focuses on aerospace related educational activities. New recipients of two-year project funding include: Albany State University, Georgia; California State University, Fresno; Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina; Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, New Mexico; Tennessee State University; Texas State University, San Marcos; and the University of Texas, El Paso.  

nsf, stem, education, nasa