Strategic partnership to support diversity in STEM

PEAQS logoThe PREM for Functional Nanomaterials has created a new partnership between Fort Lewis College (FLC; a federally designated non-tribal Native American Serving Institution), Norfolk State University (NSU; a member of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and the STROBE NSF Science and Technology Center for Real-Time Functional Imaging. This partnership is very strategic: STROBE is developing advanced functional microscopes that are needed to image functional nanosystems. However, STROBE does not have extensive synthesis capabilities or expertise. NSU has extensive world-class synthesis capabilities for many advanced materials, while FLC has expertise and infrastructure for material characterization and nanofabrication. This combination enables cutting edge materials science to expose students to exciting applications to attract a diverse group to STEM, leverage novel and effective curricula, networks, and pathways that recruit and retain the best in STEM.

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PEAQS will directly fund up to 70 undergraduate researchers and up to 24 high school researchers
at FLC and NSU. It will also support graduate students at NSU, and reach out to area high school students
to expand recruiting efforts. Once a student becomes a PREM student researcher, he or she will have access
to high-impact resources and activities that are known to significantly impact the success of student’s future
career in STEM, including: trained research and peer mentors, research experiences, professional
development activities, a peer support network, and leadership opportunities. STROBE has already
developed part of this infrastructure, in partnership with FLC. Furthermore, this partnership allows FLC to
expand the existing STROBE/FLC collaboration from just 1-2 students during the summers, to their
students and institution in a long lasting way. This existing infrastructure and relationships will make the
expansion to PREM students seamless. Undergraduate students will be encouraged to remain engaged with
research projects until graduation, alternating paid part-time research positions during the semester, and
intense 10-week full-time research stays at the different PREM sites. Student and faculty exchanges will be
key to ensure fluid progress on the highly collaborative research projects, as well as to create a community
that spans the country.

The PREM for functional nanomaterials research focuses on understanding and utilizing the interplay of atomic and nanoscale structure with functionality in three different areas, providing a diverse set of opportunities for student involvement in different stages and facets of material science research.

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Thrust 1 focuses on
understanding the role of
crystal structure and defects on
the thermoelectric and
topological insulator properties
of chalcogenide bulk materials.
Thrust 2 focuses on
understanding and utilizing the
role of nanoscale geometry on
the thermoelectric efficiency of
a simple device.
Thrust 3 aims
at understanding and
controlling nanoscale
structuring and interface
quality in materials that are a key component for applications in brain imaging and living cell imaging.

National Science Foundation - PREM

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under PREM Grant #1827847. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.