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.

  • 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.

  • News Segment Features MRSEC Efforts to Provide the Value of Field Trips Virtually

    WMTV in Green County, an NBC affiliate, featured some of MRSEC's work on its recent news segment, "Schools taking more virtual field trips during COVID-19 pandemic."

  • (2020) Sparking Student Interest: Renewable Energy Devices in the Classroom

    The Wisconsin MRSEC has developed a simple, inexpensive way for K-12 students to build a sustainable energy device using familiar, everyday materials including aluminum foil, a plastic egg, clear tape, and a bouncy ball. The device, called a triboelectric nanogenerator, converts the often-wasted energy of motion into useful electrical energy.

  • MRSEC Educational Video Competition Accepting Submissions

    The Wisconsin MRSEC Educational Video Competition has been launched to promote online science and engineering outreach in the current environment of social distancing where the majority of students are receiving science enrichment at home. The deadline to submit videos is January 20, 2021.

  • More Education and Outreach posts