Program prepares students for careers in materials science and engineering

Researchers from the University of Hawai‘i (UH) at Mānoa and the University of Washington (UW) were awarded $800,000 from the U.S. National Science Foundation in support of their partnership to increase diversity in cutting-edge materials research, education and professions.

This seed award from the NSF’s Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) will support materials research partnerships between minority-serving institutions and large-scale, NSF-supported research centers and facilities.

“The anticipated outcome of this Seed PREM is the sprouting of a strong interdisciplinary UH-UW collaboration centered around diverse student participants performing research at the frontiers to solve some of the world’s greatest materials research challenges, with the aim of successfully re-applying for a full PREM in the next round of proposals,” said Godwin Severa, principle investigator of the new grant and assistant researcher at the Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute in the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

The Materials Research and Education Consortium (MRE-C) is composed of seven UH faculty from HNEI, the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and the Colleges of Engineering and Social Sciences, as well as, 10 faculty from UW Molecular Engineering Materials Center (MEM-C), an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

PREM is intended to enhance and solidify a pathway for young researchers from underrepresented groups to enter the vibrant field of materials science and engineering.

Research activities of this new project maximize the complementary expertise and resources at both institutions while emphasizing the education and training of a diverse next generation of scientists and engineers. The research is focused on developing foundational knowledge about advanced nano-to-macroscale materials and properties controlling their unique behaviors, and investigating their use for future energy and space technologies. 

The Consortium’s PREM framework elements will include strong student dual-mentoring, including individualized professional development plans; annual student/faculty summer research exchanges; and joint research seminars and annual student symposia. The PREM pathway will increase the participation of underrepresented groups in Materials Science, especially Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and women.

The PREM program has, since 2004, supported many cohorts of students through their graduation and beyond, to have successful and rewarding careers in materials research.

The partnership directly impacts research and education output at UH by increasing the number of students prepared for opportunities in materials research and assisting in elevating UH’s standing in materials science education. The PREM Seed develops a sustainable pipeline to increase participation of underrepresented minority graduate students at UW. In addition, the PREM Seed outreach effort to K-12 schools drives sustainable long-term growth for underrepresented groups participation in STEM, and it enhances visibility and public appreciation of materials science.

“Our long-term goal is to develop lasting research partnerships incorporating diversified student trainees, while offering first rate undergraduate and graduate degree programs in materials science at UH,” said Severa.

Read also on UH News and American Society for Metals News.