NASA is making large research investments at several universities to promote STEM diversity

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that it will fund research projects totaling approximately $ 18 million at several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority service institutions (MSIs).

The new investments in more than a dozen institutions will support research addressing three of the agency’s top priorities: understanding and monitoring global marine health, bringing people back to the moon through the Artemis program, and building a more inclusive one Workforce. It will also give a big boost to diversification in the STEM area.

Funding is part of the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP), which is administered through NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. The $ 18 million competitive awards will enable institutions to address some of NASA’s most pressing challenges while enhancing their own research capabilities to make them more competitive for future grants.

“NASA thrives on great goals and monumental challenges, and these require the brightest minds with diverse backgrounds and experiences,” said Mike Kincaid, NASA’s Associate Administrator for STEM Engagement, in the agency’s press release. “We’re reaching out to historically underrepresented and underserved communities and creating as many avenues as possible to get them on board, be it through awards like this one, NASA internships and grants, or other engagements.”

“MSIs bring their own diverse viewpoints to answer the research questions that NASA continues to seek,” added MUREP manager Torry Johnson. “By expanding participation, MUREP aims to expand the pool of institutions participating in these critical scientific and technological discussions while also introducing potential candidates who will help reshape the future STEM workforce.”

OCEAN awards

In June, NASA awarded Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry (OCEAN) grants to 10 MSIs. The grants support NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in their quest to better understand the role of the ocean in the Earth system.

Over a three-year performance period, a total of more than 6.6 million US dollars will be distributed to the following institutions:

  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Northwest Indian College Foundation
  • Texas State University
  • University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez
  • University of Alaska – Fairbanks
  • University of California – Irvine
  • University of California-Merced
  • University of Hawaii – Hilo
  • University of Massachusetts – Boston
  • University of the Virgin Islands – Charlotte Amalie.

The OCEAN funding supports NASA’s research into marine health, particularly the effects of climate change on aquatic biology and ecosystems. The agency looked for proposals that would either 1) develop remote sensing capabilities to analyze the impact and vulnerability of aquatic ecosystems to climate change, or 2) improve our understanding of the carbon cycle in aquatic zones that are particularly vulnerable to environmental change.

M-STAR funding

The MUREP Space Technology Artemis Research (M-STAR) awards support NASA’s Artemis program, which will send the first woman and the first colored man to the moon. M-STAR was created in partnership with the Agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate to advance MSI literacy and empower MSIs to compete in agency research required for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond is.

In July, NASA awarded $ 3.5 million in M-STAR funding to these seven institutions:

Fayetteville State University

Florida International University

Howard University

State University of New Mexico

San Diego State University

University of Arizona

University of Central Florida.

This nearly $ 3.5 million total funding is a continuation of five M-STAR planning grants granted to some of the above recipients in August 2020.

“Diversity is a key component of technology development,” said Jim Reuter, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology. “By investing in and working with MSIs, who traditionally recruit and support communities that are underrepresented in STEM, the agency opens up and uses new perspectives, skills and solutions.”

MUREP INCLUSIVE awards

MUREP INCLUDES grants build on the NSF INCLUDES (Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) model to help MSIs develop coalitions of institutions dedicated to expanding the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM areas.

NASA awarded nearly $ 7.2 million in MUREP INCLUDES grants to six institutions, which are used to determine the methods most effective in increasing the number of diverse students doing engineering research. The six recipients were:

Alabama State University

Florida A&M University

JF Drake State Technical College

Navajo Technical College

Texas A&M Kingsville

University of Massachusetts, Boston

Technology transfer pricing for small businesses

MUREP Small Business Technology Transfer Research Planning Grants are designed to help MSIs and small businesses compete in the Small Business Innovation Research Agency / Small Business Technology Transfer Research Agency’s annual tender. This program enables small businesses to partner with research institutions to develop their technological skills, with the opportunity to commercialize their innovations and make a profit.

The new M-STTR scholarships last four months and provide up to $ 50,000 to universities. In total, more than $ 540,000 in planning grants was given to ten institutions for 11 different projects. The selected institutions have four months to develop their STTR action plans. You can find the full list of recipients here.

“Investing in MSIs enables NASA to unlock underutilized innovation and talent,” said assistant program director Gynelle Steele. “We hope these planning aids create the fundamental partnerships necessary to successfully compete for an STTR award and increase the potential for long-term collaboration.”

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Coupled with NASA’s Mission Equity, a new strategy that includes assessing obstacles in the agency that could undermine the participation of underserved and underrepresented communities in their missions, these new funding opportunities represent another example of greater reach for federal agencies, about the diversity of the MINT employees.

NASA’s initiatives complement the recent decision by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide 50 million (STEM) education. “

Although African-Americans, Alaskan Indians, and Latinos make up just over 30% of the U.S. population, these groups – along with women, low-income people, and people with disabilities – are underrepresented in STEM careers.

These are gaps that academia and the private sector have been trying to fill for years, and while there has been some progress, the gaps remain persistently difficult to fill. The NASA and NSF initiatives represent a significant – and necessary – federal push to train a more inclusive scientific and technical workforce.

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