UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Monica Medina, associate professor of biology, Penn State, is one of three researchers awarded a National Science Foundation grant aimed at building alliances and partnerships that can increase participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -- or STEM -- for underrepresented populations.
The project, which received $31,800 in funding, will use targeted interventions to expand opportunities and broaden participation in the STEM fields. The interventions will include mentoring, mentoring training, family programming and individual development plans, according to Medina.
It is one of 37 programs with initial awards totaling nearly $14 million that make up the "Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science" program -- or NSF INCLUDES.
"This NSF-INCLUDES pilot grant provides us with a great opportunity to increase the diversity of the graduate student population in the department of biology, which could lead to future support for a larger initiative at Penn State," said Medina.
Other team members working with Medina on the project include Iliana Baums, associate professor of biology and Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, professor of biology, both of Penn State; Carrie J. Bucklin, assistant professor of biology, Southern Utah University and Kristin R. Wilson Grimes, research assistant professor of watershed ecology, University of the Virgin Islands.
NSF-INCLUDES is aimed at broadening STEM participation among underrepresented groups, including women, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, persons with disabilities, people from rural areas and people of low socioeconomic status, according to a NSF release.
"For more than six decades, NSF has funded the development of STEM talent, with the goals of furthering scientific discovery and ensuring the nation's security, economy and ability to innovate. NSF INCLUDES aims to broaden participation in STEM by reaching populations traditionally underserved in science and engineering," NSF Director France Córdova said. "I'm gratified to see such a strong start to this program, which we hope will be an enduring investment in our nation's future in scientific discovery and technological innovation."
Building on these initial awards, the NSF program plans to provide networked testbeds for STEM inclusion, connecting participants and enabling them to determine the key pieces and approaches for sustainable national progress. Alliances will work with partners from private and corporate philanthropy, federal agencies and scientific professional societies. Over the next decade, NSF will expand the program, with the goal of developing a science and engineering workforce that better reflects the diversity of U.S. society.
NSF has a long history of supporting the broadening of STEM participation programs. NSF INCLUDES began after the congressionally mandated NSF Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) published a report in 2013 recommending "a bold new initiative, focused on broadening participation of underrepresented groups in STEM."