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. During this paid professional development program, teachers get hands-on experience doing cutting-edge research and using the tools, language, and practices of science while designing learning activities for their classrooms. As fellows, teachers work under the direction of a principal investigator (PI) along with postdoctoral and graduate student mentors from the PI’s lab. Please see this page to learn more and apply, or see past RET projects here.

Saturday Science of Badger Athletics

Since 2014, the Wisconsin MRSEC has partnered with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the UW Athletic Department and the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory to lead the Science of Badger Athletics event, where student athletes lead sports-themed, hands-on science activities for K-12 students and the general public. The event was specifically advertised to several groups and community centers in Madison that work with underrepresented K-12 students and these groups were offered travel support to bring students to the event.

Teen Science Café

The Teen Science Café program, originally initiated by a MRSEC graduate student,  began in the spring of 2015 with Wisconsin MRSEC members and has expanded to include scientists from across the UW campus. Teen Science Café events give students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering the opportunity to interact UW researchers in an informal setting. In each session, students from community centers in the Madison area meet with UW scientists to ask questions, get to know one another, share interests and have snacks.

St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry

In 2015, the Wisconsin 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. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced pantry staff to change their food distribution model, MRSEC members adapted to the new model by distributing free, at-home science activity kits to food pantry clients.

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. Historically, over 65% of participants have been underrepresented minority (URM) students and over 50% of the students have been 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

The Wisconsin MRSEC and the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (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, monthly professional development seminars, and REU program.

  • (2022) Bringing Science Home with Free Activity Kits

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wisconsin MRSEC developed and disseminated inclusive science activity kits. The project started in partnership with a local food pantry as an effort to engage with economically disadvantaged members of the Madison community. Food pantry staff and clients provided crucial insight to make the kits accessible and inclusive, such as including all the necessary materials including common household items like tape and including instructions in Spanish and English.

  • (2022) A Teacher Inspired by Her MRSEC RET Program Experience Develops Her Own Research Experience

    Jamie Lauer, a Wisconsin (WI) high school teacher, participated in the MRSEC’s cross-cultural Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program in 2019 and 2021. The program is run in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) to give teachers in WI and PR authentic research experiences in labs at UPRM and in MRSEC. During the 2019 RET capstone week, Jamie traveled to PR where she learned about the geography, culture and educational systems of the island. During the virtual 2021 program, Jamie learned about the native Taino people of PR.

  • Free, Informative Online Workshop: “Enhancing Undergraduate Research with Machine Learning”

    Please join us for a free, informative online workshop "Enhancing Undergraduate Research with Machine Learning” on Saturday, October 22 from 11 am -1 pm (CT). 

  • Online Field Trips Bring Science to the State

    For more than ten years, the Field Trip Program has brought students and teachers to Madison, Wis., for a day of activity and exploration. But when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered on-campus activity, the Discovery Outreach Team had to get creative. This spring, more than 28 Field Trips will connect students statewide to researchers using an entirely online model. The post Online Field Trips bring science to the state appeared first on Morgridge Institute for Research. Read the full article at:

  • Winners of the MRSEC Educational Video Competition Announced

    The winners of the Wisconsin MRSEC Educational Video Competition have been announced. There were two videos awarded in this competition. The winner of the Most Engaging Video is "Thin Film Fun" by the Ediger Group. The winner for Most Informative Video is “Determining Distances with Diffraction” by Tesia Janicki.

  • More Education and Outreach posts