Program designed to increase minority Ph.D.s in STEM disciplines

The University of New Mexico has received a National Science Foundation-funded 'Alliance for Minority Participation - Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowships' award for $966,438. The award provides complete support for 12 Ph.D. bound minority graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate programs at UNM.

Laura Crossey, project PI and Professor in Earth & Planetary Sciences, describes the Bridge to the Doctorate as an ‘initiative to help STEM faculty and departments recruit and support minority graduate students- and help propel those students through the first two years in the process of obtaining a PhD. The AMP BD is a component of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program, which has been active at UNM for 17 years.

The BD Fellows, including seven who grew up here in New Mexico, have been admitted into UNM graduate programs in Earth & Planetary Sciences, Physics, Biology, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, and the Nanoscience Microsystems (NSMS) Programs. Each Fellow will receive a generous 12-month stipend of $30,000, as well as tuition, professional development activities, research experiences including summer research expenses, and research-related travel costs. The award is effective Aug. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2012.

"The students are all really eager to get started," said Crossey. "They're excited to dig into their research and travel to research conferences abroad. We will travel as a group to Washington D.C. where Fellows will get to visit with NSF program directors and really see how the research system works, which is a significant experience in their professional development.

"We also meet every week to help each other towards academic and professional goals. This cohort approach is very successful."

UNM's new Bridge to Doctorate (BD) Fellows (National Cohort VIII) follows the success of UNM's previous AMP BD VI says Crossey. Highlights of Cohort VI include an exceptional percentage of of students admitted to Ph.D. programs, and receipt of prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowships (GRFP) by 25 percent of the cohort. Crossey and Debra Evans, professor in Chemistry, are leading a weekly seminar that helps graduate students prepare their own NSF proposal for the NSF GRFP.

"UNM is the ‘Face of the Future', with undergraduate student demographics today much like those expected nationwide in 2050. But we have a long way to go to see the same levels of participation at the graduate level. With UNM's excellent research programs, we are training students all the way through the Ph.D. level who are competing and holding their own on a national level," said Crossey.

Created in November 1993, New Mexico AMP is a partnership representing the state's public two-year postsecondary institutions, including two federally funded institutions serving American Indian students, and the state-supported four-year universities, including UNM. One of over 35 such programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), New Mexico AMP also receives significant support from the state of New Mexico and other private and federal programs. The host AMP institution for the state of New Mexico is New Mexico State University.

Crossey has been coordinating UNM AMP since 2002. Since 2008, AMP has supported undergraduate research activities for approximately 10 students per year, and administers MESA and AMP transfer scholarships from New Mexico high schools and other New Mexico institutions of higher learning, helping students through these critical transitions. With the new AMP BD graduate support program, the pyramid approach allows support for transitions from NM high schools, through the bachelor's and up to the Ph.D. in synergy with UNM's diversity initiatives.

For more information about UNM AMP and the statewide alliance visit: LSAMP.

Media contact: Steve Carr (505) 277-1821; e-mail: scarr@unm.edu