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President, NSF Spotlight Mentors Who Inspire America’s Next Generation of Scientists

January 25, 2011

Four organizations and 11 individuals to be honored at the White House and featured at NSF this week

President Barack Obama on Friday named 11 individuals and four organizations as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). The mentors will receive their awards at a White House ceremony this week. They will also be available at the National Science Foundation on Wednesday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. for media interviews.

Supported and administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and awarded by the White House, PAESMEM awards recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering (S&E)–particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in S&E fields. By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers while ensuring that tomorrow’s innovators reflect the full diversity of the United States.

Candidates for the Presidential Mentoring Awards are nominated by colleagues, administrators and students in their home institutions. Mentoring can involve students at any grade level from elementary through graduate school. In addition to being honored at the White House, recipients receive awards of $10,000 to advance their mentoring efforts.

“These individuals and organizations have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the United States remains on the cutting edge of science and engineering for years to come,” President Obama said. “Their devotion to the educational enrichment and personal growth of their students is remarkable, and these awards represent just a small token of our enormous gratitude.”

“Mentorship is an important calling,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh, “Mentors not only guide and counsel, they inspire and nurture the next generation of science, math and engineering professionals, enabling fresh, new contributions, essential to America’s future.”

Since 1996, these awards have been made annually to recognize the critical importance of mentors in the academic and personal development of students and colleagues who are underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Each year’s awardees add to a widening network of outstanding mentors in the United States, so that tomorrow’s scientists and engineers may better reflect the nation’s diverse population and so that America may reap the benefits from its best and brightest.

The individuals and organizations receiving the PAESMEM awards this year are:

Richard L. Cardenas, chair of the Department of Physics and Earth Science and associate professor of physics at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Cardenas established the Fiesta of Physics Program, which has provided science education outreach to more than 15,000 low-income, minority families in San Antonio.

Anthony Carpi, associate professor of environmental toxicology and chemistry at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. Carpi spearheaded two college-wide efforts–the Mathematics/Science Resource Center and the Program for Research Initiatives and Science Majors–that have significantly increased minority access to careers in the sciences by reducing attrition, improving graduation rates, and dramatically increasing the number of graduates who pursue advanced degrees in the sciences.

Isaac J. Crumbly, vice president for career and collaborative programs at Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia. Crumbly created the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program and the Mathematics, Science and Engineering Academy, both of which have provided significant financial support for hundreds of underrepresented minorities and women from grade nine through the baccalaureate level.

Jo E. Handelsman, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Handelsman co-founded the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute, and her mentoring course and accompanying book are used to teach mentoring at more than 64 universities in the United States.

Douglass L. Henderson, chair of the Department of Engineering Physics, professor of engineering physics, and associate dean of diversity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Henderson created the University of Wisconsin Graduate Engineering Scholars program, a unique fellowship program that offers students a support network of peers and is widely considered to be the “gold standard” among programs that mentor engineering students from underrepresented groups in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Bruce A. Jackson, professor of biotechnology at Massachusetts Bay Community College Wellesley Hills Campus and associate professor of work environment at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Jackson created the Research Integrating Molecular and Environmental Science program, which provides undergraduate scholars from the University of Massachusetts, minority-serving institutions, and community colleges nationwide with rare, hands-on and mentored research experiences in order to elevate the chances that participants’ career choices will fall within these disciplines.

Marigold L. Linton, director of American Indian outreach at the University of Kansas and a former president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. Linton has helped prepare minority students to enter the teacher preparation program and obtain scholarships, trained teacher aides in an on-reservation program for the White Mountain Apache Tribe, and led Arizona State University’s participation in the Rural System Initiative project, which served schools on 19 reservations.

Maja J. Matariæ, professor of computer science, neuroscience, and pediatrics, director of the Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems, co-director of the Robotics and Research Lab, and senior associate dean for research at the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California. Maja established a number of mentoring programs, including new K-12 courses and programs that have trained generations of teachers and students; assisted placement of PhD students in minority-serving universities; and helped place PhD students from underrepresented groups in top research universities around the world.

Gerard F.R. Parkin, professor of chemistry at Columbia University. Parkin has broadened participation in science and engineering by traditionally underrepresented groups and institutions by introducing minority high school students in New York City to advanced scientific techniques through hands-on experiences. He also welcomes female students from non-PhD-granting institutions into his lab to provide graduate-level experience in research.

Julio J. Ramirez, R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology at Davidson College in Davidson, NC. Ramirez co-founded the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience and the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, and created a national mentoring program called “Support of Mentors and Their Students From Underrepresented Minority Groups” to provide research experiences for underrepresented students to enhance their competitiveness for entry into scientific careers. He also works to enhance the mentoring abilities of junior faculty.

Michelle A. Williams, professor of epidemiology and global health and director of the Reproductive, Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology Training Program at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, and co-director of the Center for Perinatal Studies at Swedish Medical Center. Williams developed the University of Washington Multidisciplinary International Research Training Program which trains students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds for research and leadership careers in public health by addressing real global public health problems with partners in developing countries.

Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE), Stevens Institute of Technology, has developed curricula, conducted teacher professional development and mentoring programs, and implemented capacity-building efforts that have directly impacted more than 19,000 K-12 teachers, 280 community college faculty, and six million students from disadvantaged school districts, since its founding Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1988. Collaborations with community colleges, through which CIESE has mentored faculty to implement science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs, have resulted in successful replications of CIESE programs in New Jersey and in 21 other states.

Baccalaureate and Beyond Community College Mentoring Program, State University of New York, Purchase College, provides a full array of mentoring activities for community college students to assist them in completing their Associate’s degrees, transferring to a four-year college, and finally attaining Bachelor’s degrees. Students in the program complete Bachelor’s degrees at three times the national average for community college students, and 70 percent of those degrees are in STEM fields. More than 20 percent of participating students go on to continue their STEM studies in graduate school.

Grinnell Science Project (GSP), Grinnell College, addresses acclimation to college life, non-traditional learning styles, and a lack of mentoring and role models. GSP creates a “web of mentoring” that encourages not only traditional mentoring of students by their teachers, but also student-to-student and faculty-to-faculty relationships. GSP has been used as a model by a number of institutions of higher education, including Bowdoin College and Brown University.

The Center for Research on Women and Gender, University of Illinois at Chicago’s Women in Science and Engineering program reaches out to girls and young women from grade school through the undergraduate level to work with community organizations and local businesses. The program works to attract girls and young women to STEM tutoring for pre-college women to improve their college proficiency scores, and implement a peer mentoring program for undergraduate women in STEM majors.

All awardees will be available on Wed., Jan. 26, in Stafford I of the National Science Foundation, Room 1235 (the National Science Board Room) from 1 to 4 p.m. for interaction with the media.  Journalists interested in securing interviews may contact Lisa-Joy Zgorski, lisajoy@nsf.gov, to schedule appointments and obtain guest passes.

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