WARRENDALE, PA—In partnership with four leading scientific societies, collectively representing nearly 300,000 members, the Materials Research Society (MRS) has received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to strengthen U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by broadening the participation of underrepresented groups. The award, announced late last week, supports the newly formed Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN)—a five-year, $10 million program named as one of five “Alliance” proposals funded through NSF’s INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative. In addition to MRS, participating IGEN organizations include the American Physical Society (APS), American Chemical Society (ACS), American Geophysical Union (AGU) and American Astronomical Society (AAS).
Participation by underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities and women in the physical sciences has never matched their representation in the nation’s population. In addition, the fraction of such students earning doctorates drops significantly compared with the fraction earning bachelor’s degrees. IGEN intends to erase this disparity by institutionalizing inclusive, evidence-based practices for selecting and training a diverse, innovative and competitive scientific workforce. The success of the planned approach has already been demonstrated in physics through the APS Bridge Program, an NSF-funded pilot project. The IGEN partners are now banding together to apply lessons and methods learned from the APS Bridge Program to a spectrum of physical science disciplines including chemistry, astronomy and materials science/engineering, as well as physics.
According to Anne Lynn Gillian-Daniel, University of Wisconsin, Chair of the MRS Broadening Participation in Materials Subcommittee, “We look forward to collaborating with APS and the other societies to learn more about the APS Bridge Program and how it can effectively help MRS to advance its goals of broadening participation in the field of materials. It will also allow MRS the opportunity to offer excellent programs to our members’ home institutions.”
Key components of IGEN include improving mentoring of undergraduates, modifying graduate admissions practices, and recruiting large numbers of underrepresented students who would otherwise not enter graduate studies.
Adds Sossina M. Haile, Northwestern University, Chair of the MRS Member Engagement Committee, “MRS has a strong tradition of mentorship programs for women and underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities—to encourage their full participation in the activities of the Society. We look forward to partnering with APS and the others in new types of mentoring arrangements that will enhance participation of these communities in graduate materials programs. It’s a new direction for us, and we are extremely excited about the kind of impact we can make.”
MRS will receive $160,000 over five years to establish a bridge program that will go beyond standard metrics and emphasize the full potential of the person represented by the graduate school application. The ultimate goal is to prepare underrepresented students for critical transitions from undergraduate to graduate education in materials science and engineering and finally to the workforce.
About the Materials Research Society
MRS is an organization of more than 15,500 materials researchers from academia, industry and government worldwide, and a recognized leader in promoting the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research and technology to improve the quality of life. MRS members are students and professionals hailing from physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering—the full spectrum of materials research. Headquartered in Warrendale, Pennsylvania (USA), MRS membership now spans over 80 countries, with nearly 50 percent of members residing outside the United States.
MRS serves and engages members across generations to advance their careers and promote materials research and innovation. The Society produces high-quality meetings and publications, assuring that members of all career stages can present and publish their most important and timely work to an international and interdisciplinary audience. MRS continues to expand its professional development portfolio, as well as promote diversity and inclusion in the scientific workforce, with career services for researchers worldwide. The Society advocates for the importance of scientific research and innovation to policymakers and the community. And the MRS Awards program honors those whose work has already had a major impact in the field, as well as those whose work shows great promise for future leadership.
For more information about the Materials Research Society visit mrs.org
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