Stony Brook Researchers Receive NSF Grant to Bridge Gap Between Classrooms and Labs

Surita R. Bhatia
Surita Bhatia, professor in the Department of Chemistry and interim chair of the Department of Anthropology.

The U.S. National Science Foundation’s Graduate Education Division and Materials Research Division are partnering to help provide underrepresented groups in STEM with additional access to diverse education, research and training opportunities. These opportunities will empower minority-serving institutions to deliver materials research expertise that strengthens the future scientific workforce and builds institutional capacity for researchers at NSF-funded centers.

This partnership granted 11 supplemental awards to existing awardees of NSF’s Research Traineeship program (NRT) and Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials program (PREM), with the overarching goal of strengthening the U.S. scientific workforce and broadening participation in the scientific enterprise.

A team led by Surita Bhatia, professor in the Department of Chemistryand interim chair of the Department of Anthropology, including partners at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) and Navajo Technical University, was awarded $450K to initiate new training activities through the NSF NRT-PREM program, of which $150K will go to Stony Brook University. This program builds on the Stony Brook QuADS NRT, a $3M PhD training grant involving faculty and students in chemistry, materials sciences and chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and geosciences that focuses on quantitative analysis of material structure and dynamics. The new NRT-PREM award will fund joint workshops and opportunities for students from UTEP and Navajo Tech to visit Stony Brook University, and vice versa, to participate in collaborative research. 

“I am tremendously excited by this opportunity to expand the reach of our training programs and broaden participation of historically underrepresented groups in STEM education and research,” said Bhatia, who serves as director of the NSF Quantitative Materials NRT Training Program. “It has been particularly fulfilling for me to work with Dr. Thiagarajan Soundappan at Navajo Technical University, the only tribal college with an ABET-accredited engineering program, and Dr. Chintalapalle Ramana at University of Texas El Paso, one of the top Hispanic-serving universities in the country. We look forward to welcoming their students to Stony Brook University!” 

“This partnership allows NSF to greatly amplify our efforts to expand and broaden participation in materials research and education,” said Germano Iannacchione, director of NSF’s Materials Research Division. “There is a critical need to fully tap the nation’s talent wherever it may be. By engaging with NRT projects, PREM sites will create stronger connections within the scientific community and provide enhanced opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds.”

The NRT program aims to broaden participation through the development of interdisciplinary approaches to graduate research and traineeships designed to prepare graduates to tackle societally relevant challenges. The PREM program aims to broaden participation in materials research and education by developing pathways for college students and postdocs from underrepresented groups in partnership with DMR-supported centers and facilities.

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