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LSAMP BD: University of South Florida Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (FGLSAMP): University of South Florida

Jose Zayas-Castro

[email protected]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau by the year 2020 more than half of the nation's children will come from minority racial and ethnic groups. In response to these changing demographics, a recent report by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has addressed the need to increase the participation of individuals from historically underrepresented groups in science and engineering to help maintain this nation's global leadership in technology and innovation and advance national prosperity. The University of South Florida (USF) will serve as the 2019-2021 Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) institutional site for the NSF Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (FGLSAMP). This FGLSAMP BD Project seeks to build upon both FGLSAMP's prior successes and USF's preeminence as a global research university by institutionalizing evidence-based practices in the academic and social integration, comprehensive scholar development, and professionalization in the sciences of graduate students from historically underrepresented groups. The 2019-2021 FGLSAMP BD Activity will facilitate increased intellectual exchange and promote greater diversity and inclusion across all USF STEM departments. The overarching aim of this cohort will be to ensure that 100 percent of FGLSAMP BD fellows complete their STEM PhD within five years after entering their doctoral programs. <br/><br/>Through "lesson learned" from seven prior BD site awards and partnerships with four USF Colleges, the Office of Graduate Studies, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Florida Education Fund's McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program, USF has been recognized as a national leader in minority STEM graduate education. Measurable objectives for the 2019-2021 USF FGLSAMP BD Activity will include: 1) recruiting twelve (12) LSAMP former participants as fellows by fall 2019 into STEM graduate programs (MS or PhD); 2) providing faculty-mentored research-training for all fellows throughout their two-year NSF fellowship tenure; 3) initiating professional development activities to facilitate competitive Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) applications from BD fellows and FGLSAMP undergraduate scholars within the Alliance; 4) supporting the 100 percent transition of USF FGLSAMP BD fellows into STEM PhD programs through interactions with supportive role model scientists and LSAMP undergraduate scholars; and 5) fostering greater inclusion within STEM graduate departments with new faculty and graduate student mentor training initiatives.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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CSMP Scholarship Program of Central Connecticut: Central Connecticut State University

Stan Kurkovsky

[email protected]

With funding from the National Science Foundation's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, the CSMP Scholarship Program of Central Connecticut will provide support to low-income students with demonstrated financial need and academic promise. This support will help students succeed in selected STEM disciplines at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), Manchester Community College (MCC), and Tunxis Community College (TCC). The project is funding 88 scholarships over five years for students pursuing bachelor's degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics (CSMP). This scholarship program supports students planning to continue their studies in a graduate program as well as to those planning to enter the workforce upon earning an undergraduate degree. This project implements co-curricular activities proven to improve student persistence and will study the effects on student success of these activities and other factors. The scholarship program will complement and enhance the newly created Transfer Articulation Program (TAP), enabling seamless transfer of students with two-year degrees from community colleges to four-year institutions in the state of Connecticut. The scholarship program will target prospective students recruited through public schools, two-year colleges, and community organizations, as well as promising students already enrolled in CSMP and related programs at CCSU. Faculty serving as mentors will proactively provide interventions for students who experience academic or social/emotional difficulties while in the program. This program builds upon the success of the previous two NSF S-STEM awards that established a well-functioning student support infrastructure and faculty and staff who have experience with these types of interventions. The current program structure incorporates and builds on lessons learned from the prior work. This project will support the study, implementation, and evaluation of co-curricular activities leading to improved academic success of low-income academically talented students.<br/><br/>This S-STEM Track 3 project seeks to improve educational opportunities for financially needy academically talented students and help them succeed in many STEM academic areas. CCSU, MCC, and TCC serve an ethnically-diverse population within the greater Hartford area of Connecticut. A student cohort will create a supportive environment for scholars, supporting their academic success, retention, and timely graduation. The importance of the project stems from the membership of CCSU, MCC and TCC in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, which makes the project potentially scalable to the other CCSU institutions across the state. The strategies used by the scholarship program focus on peer and faculty involvement, academic integration and development, goal commitment, social integration, academic performance, and institutional commitment. Students will benefit from previous interdisciplinary curricular enhancements supported by previous NSF funding. In addition, students will have the opportunity to participate in ongoing research projects with an emphasis on interdisciplinary research which has shown correlation with retention.

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The NSF INCLUDES Open Forum: A Platform for Collective Impact and Knowledge to Advance Broadening Participation in STEM: American Association For Advancement Science

Shirley Malcom

[email protected]

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is creating, implementing and evaluating a forum for the NSF INCLUDES broadening participation community of practice and for engaging the NSF INCLUDES awardees and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) researchers across the nation to expand the NSF INCLUDES broadening participation network. The NSF INCLUDES program is a comprehensive national initiative designed to enhance U.S. leadership in STEM discoveries and innovations focused on NSF's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and broadening participation in these fields.<br/><br/>The NSF INCLUDES Open Forum will use the AAAS Trellis networking platform and the organization's experience engaging communities of practice focused on broadening participation, STEM education and STEM research. The project builds on the success of a prior NSF INCLUDES Conference award (HRD-1650509) that was addressing goals to define networking needs of the first round of NSF INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilots (DDLP); to develop design specifications for NSF INCLUDES networking, curating of resources, and supporting communities of practice; and to propose tools, techniques, capacities and functionalities for an NSF INCLUDES national network. <br/><br/>The NSF INCLUDES Open Forum project includes advisory board members with expertise in networking platforms and others with broadening participation knowledge and experience. A yearly conference for NSF INCLUDES awardees will offer participants an opportunity to learn about how Trellis platform upgrades, functionality and technology options (e.g., a smartphone application) can be used in new ways to engage a broader community of partners interested in broadening participation in STEM research and education contexts. An external evaluator will assess the activities and outcomes of the NSF INCLUDES Open Forum both during implementation and at project end. The PIs will also communicate the outcomes of the project to broader audiences, both academic and non-academic, and encourage a dialogue within the NSF INCLUDES community about the use of technology for organization and communication within a network.

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CAREER: Elucidating the Targets and Functions of Mammalian tRNA methyltransferase orthologs: University of Rochester

Dragony Fu

[email protected]

The goal of this research is to understand how ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules influence cell growth, development, and response to the environment. Current evidence shows that RNA function can be regulated by the presence of chemical groups (modifications) that are added to the RNA by specific enzymes. However, much remains to be learned about how the enzymes find their target RNAs, how the modifications change RNA functions, and how the modified RNAs regulate critical cellular processes. This research will address those questions, while providing a dynamic research environment to foster the scientific training and development of underrepresented groups in science such as minorities and women. To share new technical approaches developed during the research, students will produce video-based tutorials to serve as a teaching and training resource for the scientific community. The project will also provide educational workshops for underserved high school students to encourage curiosity and experimentation in the field of biology. <br/><br/>Mammalian genomes are predicted to encode a diverse number of transfer RNA methyltransferase (Trm) enzymes, but the cellular functions for the majority of Trm proteins remain unknown. The following project aims to elucidate the biological roles of the numerous uncharacterized mammalian Trm enzymes by: 1) establishing the protein interaction networks of human Trm enzymes, 2) identifying the cellular targets of Trm proteins, and 3) determining the cellular processes modulated by Trm proteins. The goals will be achieved through an integrated biochemical, molecular and genetic approach involving proteomic analysis of Trm complexes together with global transcription and translation profiling of human cells with altered Trm proteins. Through these discoveries, the work promises to lay a foundation of new understanding of how the RNA modifications catalyzed by diverse Trm enzymes translate into physiological outputs that help cells respond to various environmental conditions.

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Preparing Highly Qualified Physics Teachers: The College of New Jersey

Nathan Magee

[email protected]

This project, which will produce thirty new physics teachers over five years, is addressing a major problem facing high schools in the United States, a crisis of availability of well-qualified high school physics teachers. For every three national openings, only one qualified teacher is trained each year. More than 60% of high school physics classes are now taught by teachers who do not have appropriate training in physics content, and this problem is even more acute at high-need schools. The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program in Physics at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is designed to increase the number of outstanding physics students who are being recruited and certified to become new secondary physics teachers. The TCNJ School of Education and School of Science is collaborating with public secondary schools within the established 18-district TCNJ Professional Development School Network (PDSN), with concentrated training occurring within five local high-need school districts. The project will provide outstanding training and support to new physics teachers, while increasing the number and diversity of physics teacher graduates. The number of new physics teachers directly supported by this project will be regionally significant, and includes a commitment to service in high-need schools. Furthermore, the project will establish a model that is feasible to reproduce at other institutions across the nation. <br/><br/>The TCNJ project is motivated by a dire shortage of highly qualified physics teachers in New Jersey and nationally, and by a severe lack of diversity and lack of access to physics teacher expertise in high-need schools. In response to these needs, the major goals of the project are to: a) attract, retain, and sustain a minimum of six physics-certified graduates per year through the period of support and beyond; b) substantially improve science education in the region, especially by increasing teacher diversity and availability of expert physics teachers to high-need local schools; and c) contribute new knowledge to physics education research through faculty research, enabled by novel programming linked to systematic assessment of student outcomes. Benefits include the preparation of highly qualified physics majors that will become the thirty new physics teachers. With respect to propagating the outcomes broadly, this project will: a) provide a compelling model for growth, especially for primarily undergraduate institutions, which is where most physics majors train; b) disseminate gained knowledge in physics teacher education research through publications and presentations; and c) substantially increase physics expertise, diversity, and resources to high-need schools. Statistics on physics teacher demand and average physics teacher preparation are very worrying. This shortage is still growing because many new state standards are requiring greater numbers of high school students to take physics. Only ~40% of HS physics teachers have a physics degree (lowest of any HS subject). This project is tackling this challenge head-on by starting to recruit in high schools and every step along the academic curriculum. There will not only be the immediate benefit of the thirty new physics teachers, but other institutions may learn from the model being established at TCNJ.

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Structural, Functional, and Evolutionary Analysis of Long Non-coding RNAs in Control of Stress Response and the Epigenome in Diverse Plant Species: University of Pennsylvania

Brian Gregory

[email protected]

PI: Brian D. Gregory (University of Pennsylvania)<br/><br/>Co-PIs: Eric Lyons and Mark Beilstein (University of Arizona)<br/> <br/>Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are an emerging class of molecules gaining attention for their roles in various biological processes. lncRNAs are defined by the fact that they do not code for proteins and are therefore not mRNAs. In addition, they do not fit into other well-defined small silencing RNA-producing categories such as small interfering RNAs (siRNA) and microRNAs (miRNAs). Despite the importance of lncRNAs in development, epigenetic modification, and stress responses, there is still much to be learned about their structure, protein interactions, and functions, especially in model and crop plant species. This project will address this significant gap using a combination of genomic, evolutionary, and bioinformatics approaches. It is anticipated that the data, web-accessible genome analytical tools, and data management systems developed by the project will provide novel insights into plant gene expression regulation by lncRNAs, and provide important new findings and resources for studies focused on the improvement of numerous crop and genetic model plants. With regard to outreach and training, this project will provide interdisciplinary research training in RNA biology, computational science and evolutionary biology for students and postdoctoral associates. In addition, the project will develop an interdisciplinary course entitled "Applied Concepts in RNA Biology" that will leverage large-scale computing and datasets to understand various aspects of the role of RNA in biological systems. This project-based course will teach the fundamentals of RNA biology, next-generation sequencing techniques, distributed and high performance computing, data-intensive science, and collaborative research techniques that will be used in student-driven research projects. The course will be taught simultaneously at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Arizona, with two-way audio/video conferencing and lecture topics alternatively taught at each site. All project outcomes will be made readily accessible to the broader research community through a project website (https://genomevolution.org/wiki/index.php/EPIC-CoGe_Tutorial), the iPlant Collaborative and long-term repositories such as GenBank and the Short Read Archive (SRA). <br/> <br/>This project is uniquely positioned to provide insights into the structure and function of lncRNAs, and their interaction with specific epigenomic regulatory modifications in the genome. The specific goals of the project are to define a subset of lncRNAs that are important for proper gene regulation in both normal development and stress response. Specifically, the project will focus on identifying and functionally characterizing those lncRNAs that are (1) nuclear, (2) highly structured, (3) stress responsive, (4) protein bound, and (5) evolutionary conserved in genetic models (Eutrema salsugineum and Arabidopsis thaliana) and in crop species (Camelina sativa, Brassica rapa, Zea mays, and Sorghum bicolor), focusing on their roles in stress adaptation. Finally, the project will expand EPIC-CoGe, a central repository for plant epigenomics data across all species, with advanced data integration, visualization, and analysis tools to allow for the integration of functional genomics data to provide new insight into genome-wide epigenomic interactions.

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Urban Massachusetts Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program: University of Massachusetts Boston

Winston Langley

[email protected]

The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program assists universities and colleges in their efforts to significantly increase the numbers of students matriculating into and successfully completing high quality degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines in order to diversify the STEM workforce. Particular emphasis is placed on transforming undergraduate STEM education through innovative, evidence-based recruitment and retention strategies, and relevant educational experiences in support of racial and ethnic groups historically underrepresented in STEM disciplines: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders. These strategies facilitate the production of well-prepared students highly-qualified and motivated to pursue graduate education or careers in STEM.<br/><br/>For the United States (U.S.) to remain globally competitive, it is vital that it taps into the talent of all its citizens and provides exceptional educational preparedness in STEM areas that underpin the knowledge-based economy. The Urban Massachusetts Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (UMLSAMP) program was established in 2007 in response to the need for a more diverse and skilled technical workforce. That need still exists and is particularly acute in the Eastern Region of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Participating institutions include three University of Massachusetts campuses (Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell); Wentworth Institute of Technology; and four community college partners (Bristol, Bunker Hill, Middlesex, and Roxbury). The UMLSAMP's goals are to increase the number of 1) Black, Hispanic, and Native American STEM students by 50%; 2) Baccalaureate STEM degrees awarded to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students by 150%; and 3) Students who successfully transfer from Alliance community colleges into BS STEM majors by 150%. These goals support the National Science Foundation's strategic goal to "cultivate a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce, and expand the scientific literacy of all citizens." The goals will be accomplished by strategies based on the previous 10 years of Alliance experience to include but are not limited to: Facilitated Study Groups, Supplemental Instruction, Research Skills Development Workshops, Mentored Research Experiences for Undergraduates in STEM, and Community Service Projects.<br/><br/>The knowledge generating research study will employ a multi-layered, mixed-methods design with the supposition that understanding the specific programmatic aspects that contribute to LSAMP's success, institutionalizing these at Alliance institutions, and replicating them across the higher education sector can make a significant contribution to diversifying the nation's STEM-skilled workforce in all fields. Lessons learned and programmatic outcomes will be disseminated through online communication channels, participation in national and international student success and STEM related conferences and workshops, and peer-reviewed publications. Progress towards project goals will be carefully tracked internally in accordance with the UMLSAMP Logical Model and through the engagement of an external evaluator.

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EFRI C3 SoRo: Between a Soft Robot and a Hard Place: Estimation and Control Algorithms that Exploit Soft Robots' Unique Abilities: University of Tulsa

Joshua Schultz

[email protected]

This project will improve the ability to control fabric-reinforced inflatable soft robots. Soft robots offer tremendous promise because they can conform to features in an unknown environment and then change shape to perform tasks, such as entwining objects or squeezing into small gaps. These could be useful in search and rescue, disaster relief, and increasing customization in manufacturing. While scientists and engineers have managed to demonstrate these types of movements by trial and error, getting them to work under computer control has been difficult. Because soft robots are usually made of elastomeric materials, a multitude of sensors can be molded into the robot, measuring touch, proximity, and the shape of objects in the environment. With such a large number of sensors, the robot has access to a rich amount of data that can be used to help determine the current position and shape of the robot. The elastomeric material of soft robots also offers the opportunity to incorporate active materials that can change their properties upon command from a computer. These materials can be used to tune the stiffness of the soft robot or provide additional options for changing its shape. If successful, this research project will produce improved algorithms to process these sensor inputs so that the soft robot can distill them into meaningful information about itself and the world. The techniques will be leveraged to broadly spread the benefits of the research to the wider community. Teams of selected K-12 teachers will participate in a decathlon-style contest, using a single robot to compete in a series of diverse tasks and building their skills with soft robot technology for later use in their classrooms.<br/><br/>The research effort centers around developing concise models for the motions of a fabric-reinforced rubber tube that can be evaluated quickly by a computer. Particular attention will be given to behaviors that are difficult to represent by existing techniques, such as wrinkling, pleating and buckling. Based on the simplified model, the algorithm will postulate a variety of possible shapes for the robot at each instant. The algorithm will then decide which is correct by comparing measurements from its many sensors to the predictions of the model. Using the data gathered by the robot platforms, the robot will be able to learn how to select the appropriate commands — that is, the combinations of pneumatic valve signals and tunable stiffness patches in the rubber walls — to autonomously complete useful tasks where the robot must push on the environment. The algorithm will be validated in representative tasks such as hanging drywall and retrieving objects in clutter.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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CNH2-L: Uncovering Metacoupled Socio-Environmental Systems: Michigan State University

Jianguo Liu

[email protected]

Today's global socio-environmental challenges place unprecedented demands on natural and social sciences to understand and forecast a tightly interconnected world. Yet most studies on socio-environmental interactions have focused on a single socio-environmental system. While some studies have separately examined socio-environmental interactions between adjacent or distant systems, they usually focused on one-way impacts. Although these separate studies have generated useful information, little is known about the relationships among socio-environmental interactions within and across adjacent and distant systems systematically and simultaneously. This award will fill these key knowledge gaps by addressing some of the world's biggest challenges such as land use and food security across scales and across borders. The results are expected to reveal transformational insights into global food production, trade, and labor dynamics. They can also shine light on the potential cascading consequences of land use decisions. This innovative research represents an exciting new frontier, with pioneering contributions to the theory, methods, and applications of socio-environmental systems research. It will be tightly integrated with ambitious education and outreach efforts, elevating the public's understanding of the socioeconomic and environmental effects of complex trade relationships. Students and postdoc will gain broad knowledge and learn important skills to become future visionary leaders and globally engaged scholars.<br/><br/>The interdisciplinary research team will apply and quantify the holistic metacoupling framework that integrates socioeconomic-environmental interactions within as well as between adjacent and distant systems. Fundamental questions include: How do intracouplings (e.g., food production within a coupled system), pericouplings (e.g., labor movement between adjacent systems), and telecouplings (e.g., trade between distant systems) complement, enhance and/or offset their effects on socio-environmental feedbacks? To address this and other questions, the project will leverage existing and new data on global trade of a major agricultural commodity — soybeans — and associated labor and financial flows for commodity production. Analyses at the international/national scales will be conducted with new global grid-based models and other state-of-the-art tools. They will be complemented by in-depth studies at regional/local scales in key soybean exporting and importing countries through population census and agricultural data, ecological fieldwork and face-to-face interviews to inform the development and validation of a novel metacoupled agent-based model. These studies, spanning local to international scales, will be joined via systems integration. The international researchers will understand and simulate complex dynamics and feedbacks of metacoupled systems under various scenarios co-designed with stakeholders.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Mentored Pathways from Community College to Graduate School and Chemistry Careers: Southwestern College

David Hecht

[email protected]

This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need. Over five years, this project will fund 120 scholarships to four groups of 30 students who are pursuing associate degrees at Southwestern College, and 45 scholarships for 30 transfer students and 15 graduate students who are pursuing baccalaureate and graduate degrees in chemistry and biochemistry at San Diego State University. This project will create an integrated mentoring and research pathway that bridges the chemistry and biochemistry programs at Southwestern College and San Diego State University. Both Southwestern College and San Diego State University are Hispanic-Serving Institutions. As a result, the project has the potential to improve diversity in STEM graduate programs and careers by identifying and removing roadblocks to student transfer and post-transfer success. Along with financial support, scholars will have opportunities to participate in sustained undergraduate research experiences throughout their academic careers. Additional supports include: mentoring by faculty, graduate students, and peers; opportunities for students to attend and present their research at national and regional professional conferences; and career/graduate school application workshops. Mentors will participate in training on best practices in mentoring to ensure high-quality research experiences for all students. These proposed activities are designed to provide a mentored pathway from community college into graduate school and STEM careers. <br/><br/>The objectives of this project are to: improve student success, retention, and completion of chemistry courses and degrees at Southwestern College and at San Diego State University; facilitate transfer of academically talented, low-income students to San Diego State University as Chemistry/Biochemistry majors; and increase graduate school acceptance rates and/or STEM career placement rates after graduation. Knowledge generation activities will focus on three areas. First, the project will examine how scholarships and participation in program activities affect traditional metrics of student success such as GPA, transfer rates, persistence, loans, time to degree, career plans, and employment after degree. Second, using the lens of social cognitive career theory and measurements of scientific self-efficacy, confidence, scientific identity, and sense of belonging, it will examine how students' affective domain is influenced by program activities. Finally, the mentoring activities themselves will be evaluated to understand the effects of structured mentoring experiences on both mentors and mentees. Dissemination of results through peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and outreach will enable other community college-university partnerships to apply lessons learned from this program to enhance student success in other locations. It is expected that the research projects in which students participate will also produce new scientific knowledge in chemistry, including organic chemistry, chemical biology, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, catalysis, physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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