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From “NSF Grant Bolsters Geosciences Education Support for Underrepresented Students” on SBU Happenings, December 21, 2016 with contributions by Brian Colle

Stony Brook University was recently awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop the Stony Brook GeoPATH-IMPACT program. This project expands the university’s two decades long effort to engage underrepresented minority (URM) in the geosciences. This project follows the highly successful GeoPREP program at Stony Brook, which was a 5-year NSF sponsored project to enhance the participation of underrepresented groups in the geosciences through an 8-week summer research program for high school students and a week long workshop for teachers to develop lab exercises for the classroom. The GeoPATH funding will add new elements to draw in URM and low-income community college students into the geosciences. The primary focus will be engaging students in geoscience research projects that will also provide relevance to the chemistry, mathematics, and physics course work the students have taken. These three subject areas, especially math and physics are often stumbling blocks for students who transfer from community colleges to a four-year institution such as Stony Brook University. Our primary goals are to: 1. Mitigate the anxiety that transfer students often feel when confronted with the challenges of math and physics at SBU and 2. To provide a meaningful research experience that enhances the students’ understanding of their chosen geoscience discipline, be it Atmospheric Science (ATM), Geology (GEO), or Marine Science (MAR).

GeoPATH-IMPACT involves collaborations within The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), the Department of Geosciences and the STEM Smart program housed in the Department of Technology and Society. STEM Smart is an amalgam of programs that serve low income and under-represented undergraduate students who are majoring in STEM disciplines. The STEM Smart participating programs will be the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and the current OEDG project. Off campus collaborators include Nassau and Suffolk County Community Colleges (NCC and SCCC), both of which are within geographic proximity of the Stony Brook University campus.

GeoPATH will focus on enhancing undergraduate research skills, encouraging matriculation in Geoscience majors and promoting the relevance of geoscience careers as viable career paths in academia, government service, and private industry. The program will allow for some undergraduate stipend and fellowship support. The main features of our IMPACT proposal are:

  • Increasing geoscience involvement and experience from high school through the community college to the 4-year institutions.
  • Expanding a summer research experiences for community college (CC) students interested in the geosciences through the development of a 6-week summer program at Stony Brook.
  • Collaborating with CCs during the academic year with joint club activities, seminars, and mentoring of CC students by SBU faculty, senior undergraduates, and graduate students.
  • Working with local CCs to develop curriculum that results in a smoother transition for students from the CC to a 4-year institution, such as SBU.
  • Providing scholarship support to students transitioning from CC to SBU geoscience majors, including URMs by incorporating them into the support structures of the University’s CSTEP, LSAMP and OEDG programs.
  • Providing more internship and research opportunities for undergraduates in the geosciences at SBU and at other nearby locations (e.g., Brookhaven National Laboratory).
  • Collecting data for a longitudinal study that gauges the awareness of, and reasons for students pursuing geoscience majors or leaving the program part way through.

The PI of GeoPATH-IMPACT is Dr. Brian Colle (SoMAS). Co-PIs are Dr. Gilbert Hanson (Geosciences), Dr. Kamazima Lwiza (SoMAS), Dr. Hyemi Kim (SoMAS), and Dr. Edmund Chang (SoMAS). Senior personnel are Mrs Lauren Donovan and Mr. Paul Siegel (Department of Technology and Society). Off campus collaborators are Mr. Sean Tvelia and Dr. Candice Foley from SCCC and Lisa Bastiaans from NCC. The funded amount is $409,289.

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