University of Wisconsin–Madison

MRSEC initiatives that broaden participation in STEM

Research Experience for Teachers

Since 2010, the UW and University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez have collaborated to create a cross-cultural Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program with a diverse teacher cohort and dynamic professional development experience for middle and high school teachers at both institutions.Though the RET grant ended in 2014, the UW MRSEC continued the collaborative program by funding 3 PR teachers and 3 WI teachers in the 2015 summer program, which included weekly virtual meetings between participants at both sites and a capstone week in Madison where teachers presented their curriculum and learned about educational resources in Wisconsin. Plans for the 2016 program include MRSEC support for 3 teachers at UW and 2 teachers at UPRM with a capstone week to be held in Wisconsin. To see past RET projects click here.

Saturday Science of Badger Athletics

In 2014, the UW MRSEC partnered with the UW Athletic Department and the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory to develop the Science of Badger Athletics event, where student athletes lead sports themed, hands-on science activities for K-12 students and the general public. This popular event (over 700 attendees) was held for the third time in Feb. 2016 with athletes from a wide range of sports including football, rowing, golf and baseball. Because many UW athletes are students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering, this event was targeted to K-12 students from underrepresented groups. The event was specifically advertised to several groups and community centers in Madison that work with underrepresented students and these groups were offered travel support to bring students to the event.

Snacks with Scientists

The MRSEC-student developed Snacks with Scientists program began in the spring of 2015 with UW MRSEC members and has expanded to include scientists from across the UW campus. Snacks with Scientists gives local middle school students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering the opportunity to interact UW researchers in an informal setting. In each session, 10 – 20 students from community centers in the Madison area meet with two UW scientists to ask questions, get to know one another, share interests and have snacks. In the fall of 2015, Snacks with Scientists expanded to include scientists from across 10 departments across campus and students from multiple schools and community organizations. To date, 221 students and 25 scientists have participated.

St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry

In 2015, the MRSEC began regularly presenting outreach activities to K-12 students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds at the local St. Vincent de Paul food pantry. Through a collaborative effort with St. Vincent de Paul, MRSEC staff members lead outreach activities with children while their parents or guardians wait to receive service at the pantry. This program recently expanded to include other UW science outreach groups to expose underserved young people to a broad range of STEM topics.

Research Experience for Undergraduates

The MRSEC runs a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program that gives undergraduate students an opportunity to participate in authentic research in MRSEC laboratories for 10-weeks during the summer. The program is run in collaboration with other summer research programs including the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) through the UW College of Engineering’s minority-serving program, Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) program and the REU in Nanotechnology program. Combining the programs gives the students additional professional development opportunities, a larger cohort of diverse peers, and exposure to a wider breadth of UW research. In the summer 2015 program, 65% of participants were underrepresented minority (URM) students and over 50% of the students were female. Over 75% of students who participate in these programs have gone on to pursue graduate or professional degrees in science or engineering.

Partnerships with Minority-Serving Institutions

University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM) (top): UW MRSEC and UPRM partner to positively impact the participation of Hispanic people in materials science and engineering at all levels of the pipeline, from K-12 through faculty. The partnership is grounded in research collaborations between faculty members at both universities, and includes several UPRM faculty members who have received PhDs in engineering at UW-Madison. Research and education focused interactions between UW and UPRM participants are supported through initiatives of the MRSEC. For example, UPRM students participate in the AMIC annual meeting, weekly research group discussions, and monthly professional development seminars, and REU program.Tuskegee University (middle): In February 2010, faculty at Tuskegee University, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) invited UW MRSEC members to become a part of an NSF-funded project “A NanoBio Science Partnership for the Alabama Black Belt Region”. Through this partnership, materials science faculty at Tuskegee University have invited UW MRSEC members to participate in the annual SECME Summer Institute, an intense professional development institute that targets K-12 teachers and educational administrators of underrepresented and under-served students in the Southeastern U.S. MRSEC staff lead workshops that provide teachers with hands-on, materials science and nanotechnology activities made from affordable and easily accessible materials. Faculty members from Tuskegee University and the Wisconsin MRSEC have extended the partnership beyond education/outreach into three ongoing or past research collaborations: 1) interfacial characterization of calcium nanomaterials (MRSEC Profs. Paul Evans, Nicholas Abbott and Tuskegee Prof. Vijay Rangari), 2) facilitation of research in computational materials science and nanomechanics (MRSEC Interdisciplinary Computation Group), and 3) electronic interfaces (MRSEC Prof. Robert Hamers and Tuskegee Prof. Michael Curry).College of Menominee Nation (CMN) (bottom): The MRSEC is forming a new collaboration with CMN and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to explore educational/outreach and professional development opportunities for CMN students. Check back for more details.