Higher Education Grants or Gifts of Interest to African Americans

Here is this week’s news of grants or gifts to historically Black colleges and universities or for programs of particular interest to African Americans in higher education.

The College of Science and Technology at North Carolina A&T State University has been selected for the Bridges to the Doctorate research training grant of $1.3 million from the National Institute of Health. The award will create a partnership between the college’s master’s programs in computational biology and computational science and engineering and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s doctorate programs in the same fields. Bridges to the Doctorate will help three NCA&T students each year make the transition from a master’s program to a doctorate program by providing them with mentors at both institutions and a special curriculum designed specifically for the program. NCA&T is the only historically Black college or university selected for the award.

The historically Black Hampton University School of Science in Virginia has been awarded a $4 million grant from the United States Department of Defense to enhance the school’s research capabilities and educational programs in STEM. The grant funds Hampton’s Stem Scholars Programs (SSP) which provides a select group of students with STEM majors with funding and research opportunities. “The SSP program is a unique program that benefits the students and the university. This program provides students with full scholarships and the university gains more students in the trajectory towards STEM careers,” said Dr. Isi Ero-Tolliver, assistant professor for the Hampton University School of Science and co-principal investigator for the SSP. “So far, it has been a privilege to work with such eager and intellectually, budding scientists as we explore the academic, research and STEM education aspects of this program,” Dr. Ero-Tolliver added.

The Department of Defense through the U.S. Army has awarded historically Black Delaware State University a $600,000 grant to research an alloy that could improve the performance of night vision systems and other scientific instruments. The project will focus on materials used in uncooled infrared detectors and investigate compounds that could provide the U.S. Army with better night vision equipment. According to principal investigator Dr. Mukti Rana, “this is the first research initiative at a historically Black college or university on uncooled infrared detector materials.”

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded historically Black Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina $586,437 grant to enhance the school’s Comprehensive Academic Scaffolding to Enhance Retention of Minority STEM Students program. This program will support 90 students from 21 of North Carolina’s most economically depressed counties and provide them with a comprehensive education as well as graduate school and science career preparation. “This project will enhance ECSU’s continued effort to ensure a smooth transition of students from high school to college, a challenge well-known to disproportionately affect minority student success, especially in their first year of college education,” said principal investigator Dr. Eyualem Abebe. “A successful first year experience contributes to student overall retention and graduation rate and this project aims to make sure participant students overcome the challenges of first year gateway courses.”

Morgan State University, the historically Black educational institution in Baltimore, has been awarded a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to fund a new project in which undergraduates and teachers will be trained in technologies to revolutionize U.S. cities. The project, “REU-RET Mega-Site: Research Experience for Undergraduates and Teachers in Smart and Connected Cities,” involves 14 HBCUs and one Hispanic-serving institution.It aims to train a diverse population of students who are underrepresented in STEM. In addition to college students, the project will also train teachers in minority-serving K-12 schools and community colleges. Each year, the project will train 30 students and 15 teachers with a goal of gaining more minority interest in STEM higher education. “This project is one of a kind,” said principal investigator Dr. Kofi Nyarko. “It involves HBCUs and HSIs in a way that will bring research experience to a very wide Hispanic and African-American population, with the ultimate goal of moving the needle in terms of representation of Africans Americans and Hispanics in higher education, specifically in master’s and doctoral programs in engineering.”

Historically Black Prairie View A&M University in Texas has been awarded a $499,964 grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance the school’s computer network for research purposes. The project, Improve Network on Campus for Research and Education in Agriculture, Science, and Engineering, will significantly improve upload and download times while allowing data-intensive research projects unrestricted access to the university’s network. According to principal investigator Dr. Suxia Cui, the project “will allow researchers to effectively work in the fields of big data and data-intensive science. It will also enable data-driven research in the areas of cybersecurity, high performance computing, computational chemistry, brain imaging, genomics, and bioinformatics, to name a few.”

An alliance led by historically Black Tuskegee University in Alabama has been awarded a $2.6 million grant by the National Science Foundation’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program. The new program will provide junior faculty in STEM disciplines at HBCUs with research opportunities to promote their academic growth in the early years of their career. Along with Tuskegee, the other participating HBCUs are Jackson State University in Mississippi and Tennessee State University in Nashville. Faculty members will be recruited and immersed in project interventions, including research assignments at one of three national laboratories; Lawrence Berkeley in California, Brookhaven in New York, and Oak Ridge in Tennessee. Oakland University in Michigan will study the AGEP program model for its effectiveness. Principal investigator Dr. Shaik Jeelani said, “The program will provide these maturing faculty members with year-round academic and social support to achieve a high-level of productivity in scholarly areas that are highly valued for tenure and promotion. This will include supporting their efforts to write competitive proposals to funding agencies, as well as how to prepare and submit scholarly manuscripts.”

Researchers from the University of Maryland have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine to fund the development of a new mobile app that will by provide a sort of one-stop wellness shop to people without regular access to health care. The research group is tailoring the app to African-American and Spanish-speaking users of smartphones, who will be able to set personal goals, enter personal and family health histories, and access information on disease prevention and health promotion. “Increasing amounts of health information and services are online, and many people have only a mobile phone, not a desktop or laptop computer,” said Cynthia Baur, an endowed professor and director of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy who’s overseeing development of the app. “Designing a smartphone app for multiple health topics, instead of one for a specialized purpose, allows the app to be more relevant and useful in everyday life.” The intended users of the new app frequently lack convenient access to doctors or hospitals. The researchers hope that their app will empower these vulnerable populations to make the best health decisions.

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