A kid with his pants rolled up to the knees is wading in a creek. He's bent over, with his hands in the water, like he's picking something up.

Grant to support development of inquiry-based STEM activities model

Materials developed by the research team to be used in the classroom.
Miami University researchers have received a grant to support development of a graphic novel format for inquiry-based instruction for science education.

The Ohio Department of Education has awarded a grant of $93,242.15 to Miami University College of Arts and Science and College of Education, Health and Society for their project entitled “Writing Inquiry Stories to Explore Science (WISE Science).” Led by Miami University’s Center for Chemistry Education, this partnership will provide professional development for Ohio 6th to 8th grade educators in partnering Middletown City Schools.

Building upon the Center for Chemistry Education’s efforts during the 2014-2015 school year, the WISE Science project provides a model for teachers to use in their classroom inquiry-based teaching and learning activities. Last year’s process used inquiry stories and student characters to design investigations. In their inquiry stories, the students were asked to notice something in their daily lives and, after discussion, develop a testable question and experiment. The story the kids created became a draft for an experiment the students could visualize.

While the concept of a written story was well-received, based on teacher feedback and collaboration, a graphic novel or comic-book style reading material emerged as the solution to engage reluctant readers. So, the Center for Chemistry Education transformed the science inquiry stories into comic book style readings. “Basically, this is a project that uses a graphic novel format in inquiry-based instruction for science education,” described Dr. Tammy Schwartz, Department of Teacher Education’s Instructor and Director of the Urban Teaching Cohort. These graphic inquiry stories were designed to step students through the scientific process: posing a testable question, designing an experiment and collecting data, and using results to make a claim with evidence.

The collaborators of this project hope to foster an energetic response from urban schools that traditionally shy away from an inquiry based curriculum. The Center for Chemistry Education will train teachers in urban classrooms to move away from seatwork, explicit directions, and tests towards a more critical-thinking environment. By doing so, their goal is to improve student learning and results on state tests and other key indicators. “It has become clear to me that the [inquiry process] helps [the students] solidify what they have learned and emphasizes those big ideas of science,” said middle school special education teacher Janet Frasher.

Over the coming summer, a group of 6th to 8th grade teacher leaders will participate in a summer program to learn inquiry teaching skills using comic style inquiry and magazine style content readings. They will then partner with Center for Chemistry Education staff throughout the school year to create Inquiry Cycle lessons to support their physical, earth, space, and biological science lessons in the classroom. Additional science and language arts teachers as well as intervention specialists will learn about and use the Inquiry Cycle lessons developed by the teacher leaders. Middletown City Schools anticipate that reading improvement will result in improved performance on the state assessments.

This award is effective January 20, 2016 through May 31, 2017, and is directed by Susan Hershberger in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Jennifer Blue in the Department of Physics, and Tammy Schwartz in the Department of Teacher Education.

Written by Andrea Rahtz, Copywriter/Digital Marketing Specialist, College of Education, Health, & Society, Miami University. Item originally appeared here.

Kid in the creek photo by Camp ASCCA via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Micro-focusing an Argon-ion laser onto a graphene sample

Interdisciplinary team works to engineer success

A professor works with a group of students in a physics classroom. The students are writing on a whiteboard and using a calculator.
If an intervention being developed by an interdisciplinary team at Miami University proves effective, more engineering students may pass early physics courses, like this one taught by Visiting Assistant Professor Dilupama Divaratne.

According to a 2013 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly half of students who begin pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math – the so-called STEM fields – drop out of that pipeline before earning a degree.

Among several factors the NCES cites is “performing poorly in STEM classes relative to non-STEM classes.” As a physics instructor at Miami University, Jennifer Blue has seen this firsthand.

Blue reports that while a majority of introductory engineering students at Miami pass their first-year physics classes, about 20% earn a “D,” “F,” or “W.”

“It makes us so sad when people fail our classes,” the associate professor says.

In part, that sorrow stems from the knowledge that an early negative experience is often enough to cause students to give up on the dream of becoming an engineer. That’s not what Blue wants.

It’s not what Brian Kirkmeyer wants either. As Assistant Dean for Student Success in Miami’s College of Engineering and Computing, it’s his job to help keep engineering students’ dreams alive.

“It serves no purpose for students’ dreams to be squashed,” he says. “That doesn’t get us more engineers and computer scientists. We want physics to be a course that sets students up for a successful STEM-based academic – and, ultimately, post-academic – career.”

Kirkmeyer’s sentiment is consistent with the goals of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Education program.

“The NSF knows that there’s a crisis in America with engineering, that we don’t have enough engineers, and that there are all sorts of places in the pathway to engineering where there are problems,” says Amy Summerville, who is the lead investigator on a $368,000 grant from the program.

In collaboration with Blue and Kirkmeyer, Summerville, an associate professor in Miami’s Department of Psychology, is working to develop an intervention to improve engineering students’ success in physics courses.

Summerville’s area of expertise is counterfactual thinking, or thinking about how things might have been, as opposed to how things actually are. According to Summerville, counterfactual thinking is important not only because it helps us identify the causes of negative events, but also because it helps us set intentions for the future.

For instance, she says, someone who’s been involved in a car accident might think, “If only I hadn’t been texting, I wouldn’t have had the accident.” That thought can lead that person to decide to leave their phone in their bag the next time they get behind the wheel.

Summerville thinks that helping engineering students who experience an early setback in a physics class – say receiving a “D” or “F” on the first exam – think about what they might have done differently before that exam could improve their future performance.

“We know,” says physics instructor Blue, “that students aren’t all doing the things that we desperately wish they would do, like completing their homework, coming to class, asking for help, going to office hours.”

The solution Summerville imagines is a worksheet that physics instructors would give to students when they hand back the first exam. The worksheet would ask students a series of questions about how they prepared for the exam and encourage them to reflect on their performance. Then, critically, the worksheet would ask students to generate ideas about what they could do differently to prepare for the next exam.

If Summerville’s intervention proves effective, it would have a significant advantage over many other interventions that have been tried in the past.

“Lots of engineering programs have tried really elaborate, really expensive ways of addressing this – changing pedagogy, creating cohorts, creating all sorts of new administrative systems,” says Summerville. “And what this might allow us to do is help students better take advantage of all the resources that are already there, with almost no additional investment.”

That prospect has intrigued other engineering educators, including members of the project’s advisory board, who work at some of the region’s biggest and most prestigious engineering schools. Still in the first year of their three-year project, the team already has invitations to give talks or lead workshops at The Ohio State University, Purdue University, and Indiana University. Even institutions farther away, like the Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, and Texas A&M University, have expressed interest.

While she’s excited about the interest her team’s approach has generated, Summerville cautions that their worksheet isn’t magic, and that it’s important for educators to understand the characteristics of their particular students and to take into account the specific circumstances they face.

“We’re figuring out what works at Miami,” she says. “And there may be important differences between us and other universities.”

One difference, Blue notes, is that Miami students tend to be better prepared than many students at other institutions.

“When I talk to colleagues at other universities, they say, ‘Well, if only our students could do Algebra I material, they might survive,’” Blue says. “Our students can do the math. They’re totally qualified to be there. But they didn’t have to do all this stuff to get ‘A’s in high school, most of them, so they don’t always realize what it’s going to take.”

By delivering talks and leading workshops Summerville hopes to help engineering educators understand the science behind the intervention, so that they can use it to guide students to take ownership of the behaviors that influence their individual academic success. There’s a huge difference for nearly everyone, she says, between being told what to do and making your own decisions.

Kirkmeyer agrees that’s key. “Self-efficacy’s a powerful thing,” he says.

Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director & Information Coordinator, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Physics classroom photo by Scott Kissell, Miami University Photo Services. Argon-ion laser photo by University of Exeter via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.


In front of a red brick building, a lamppost bears a sign for McGuffey Hall.

College of Education, Health and Society receives funding for new STEM scholarship program

A woman holding a microphone addresses an audience. Behind her on the stage are four other people.

Select teacher education majors from Miami University will soon get a chance to become highly qualified science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers while also learning how to be culturally responsive in a multicultural environment.

The National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Program has selected a team of experts in the College of Education, Health and Society to receive funding for their idea that will help undergraduate and graduate STEM majors, STEM professionals and STEM teacher education majors gain the skills necessary to teach in ethnically and culturally diverse communities.

“Our goal is to use this funding to create a STEM teacher education scholarship program that will not only impart knowledge, but expose students to the experiences they will have in urban communities so they can be culturally responsive in any situation,” says Nazan Bautista, the primary investigator and a science educator in Miami’s College of Education, Health and Society.

She, along with co-primary investigators Jeff Wanko in the College of Education, Health and Society (EHS), Tammy Schwartz in the Urban Teaching Cohort (UTC) program, and Ellen Yezierski and Jennifer Blue in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Miami University have been awarded $74,956 to begin building their project, Building Capacity for Miami Robert Noyce Scholars.

This award is the first in a series of steps that will help the team move forward on program designs geared toward attracting and retaining aspiring STEM teachers committed to a high-needs local school district for two years after graduation. Among these attractions will be scholarship opportunities and stipend options for talented STEM undergraduates and STEM career professionals to pursue secondary teacher certification (Grades 7-12) in either science or mathematics at Miami. The project team will also develop a mentoring and professional development program supporting teacher candidates during the initial years of their full-time teaching.

“This capacity building proposal for the MU-Noyce Scholars project is well designed [and] represents a novel approach to STEM teacher preparation in urban settings including the emphasis on culturally responsive teaching and immersion in field experiences beginning after the freshman year,” wrote a National Science Foundation reviewer.

Miami’s team of experts hopes their project will provide a model for STEM teacher education programs in other institutions. Their goal is to prepare teachers who understand the characteristics and contributions of different ethnic groups, incorporate diverse content into their curriculums, and understand how different ethnic communication styles reflect cultural values and shape learning behavior. All this, they believe, should be done responsibly while realizing the intellectual potential of a diverse student classroom and spreading that idea to others.

Written by Andrea Rahtz, College of Education, Health, & Society, Miami University. Originally appeared as a Campus News story on Miami University’s website.

Photo of McGuffey Hall by Scott Kissell, Miami University News & Communications. Photo of CEHS Urban Teaching Series panel by Jeff Sabo, Miami University News & Communications.


Former program officer highlights NSF STEM education funding opportunities

K3815 Ecology Research Center

On Tuesday, November 4, Joyce Fernandes, professor of biology at Miami University and a former program officer with the National Science Foundation (NSF), led a workshop on NSF funding opportunities for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education as part of OARS’ fall workshop series. Following are descriptions of various NSF programs that support education in STEM fields. In addition to funding opportunities for new projects, this list also includes STEM education supplements available for current NSF awards. While this list is fairly comprehensive, NSF programs are constantly evolving and there are a number of cross cutting programs not listed below. For a comprehensive and up-to-date list of all NSF programs, visit NSF’s website.

Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)

The goal of the DUE is to promote excellence in undergraduate education by promoting leadership, supporting curriculum development, preparing the workforce, and fostering connections within the research community.

  • Advanced Technological Education (ATE) is primarily for two-year colleges with a focus on education of technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels.
  • Cooperative Activity with Department of Energy Programs for Education and Human Resource Development (request for supplement) is a cooperative program between NSF and DoE that supports students and faculty from eligible NSF projects who are accepted as participants in one of four DoE initiatives that provide hands-on research opportunities in DoE national laboratories during the summer: Science Undergraduate Research Internships (SULI), Faculty and Student Teams (FaST), Community College Institute of Science and Technology (CCI), and Pre-Service Teacher (PST) Internships.
  • EHR Core Research is a cross cutting program to help synthesize, build and/or expand research foundations in four areas (STEM learning, STEM learning environments, STEM workforce development, and broadening participation in STEM).
  • Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) is designed to support evidence-based and evidence-generating approaches to understanding STEM learning; to designing, testing, and studying instruction and curricular change; to wide dissemination and implementation of best practices; and to broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields. This program currently features two tracks: Engaged Student Learning and Institutional/Community Transformation. Formerly called CCLI (Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement).
  • Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE) in Engineering aims to introduce nanoscale science, engineering, and technology through a variety of interdisciplinary approaches into undergraduate engineering education.
  • NSF Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars (DTS) recognizes and rewards individuals who have contributed significantly to the scholarship of their discipline and to the education of students in STEM, and exemplify the ability to integrate their research and educational activities.
  • NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) makes grants to institutions of higher education to support scholarships for academically talented students demonstrating financial need, enabling them to enter the STEM workforce or STEM graduate school following completion of an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate-level degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics disciplines.
  • Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program consists of two tracks: the Noyce Scholarship Track and the NSF Teaching Fellowship/Master Teaching Fellowship Track. The Noyce Scholarship Track provides funds to institutions of higher education to support scholarships, stipends, and academic programs for undergraduate STEM majors and post-baccalaureate students holding STEM degrees who earn a teaching credential and commit to teaching in high-need K-12 school districts. The NSF Teaching Fellowship/Master Teaching Fellowship Track provides funding to support STEM professionals who enroll as NSF Teaching Fellows in master’s degree programs leading to teacher certification by providing academic courses, professional development, and salary supplements while they are fulfilling a four-year teaching commitment in a high-need school district.
  • STEM-C Partnerships: MSP (STEM-CP: MSP) is a major research and development effort of two NSF Directorates and targets proposals in four areas: Community Enterprise for STEM Teaching and Learning, Current Issues Related to STEM Content, Identifying and Cultivating Exceptional Talent, and K-12 STEM Teacher Preparation.
  • Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES) supports efforts to create, adapt, and disseminate new learning materials and teaching strategies to reflect advances both in STEM disciplines and in what is known about teaching and learning.

 Division of Graduate Education (DGE)

The following programs are designed to support and promote new ideas on graduate education in STEM fields.

  • EHR Core Research: see DUE section above
  • Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science and engineering. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.
  • National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to catalyze and advance cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in high priority areas, prepare STEM graduate students more effectively for successful careers within or outside academe, and develop models and knowledge that will promote transformative improvements in graduate education.

Specialized information for K-12 educators

The following programs provide either direct (i.e., from NSF) or indirect (i.e., from an awardee institution) funding for students at this level or identify programs that focus on educational developments for this group such as curricula development, training or retention.

  • Advanced Technological Education (ATE): see DUE section above
  • Arctic Research Opportunities provides educational opportunities for Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Postdoctoral Fellows, K-12 Educators to conduct research about the Arctic. Arctic research includes field and modeling studies, data analysis, and synthesis about the arctic region.
  • Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) supports interdisciplinary research that examines human and natural system processes and the complex interactions among human and natural systems at diverse scales. Research projects to be supported by CNH must include analyses of four different components: (1) the dynamics of a natural system; (2) the dynamics of a human system; (3) the processes through which the natural system affects the human system; and (4) the processes through which the human system affects the natural system.
  • Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) funds foundational and applied research projects addressing the development, implementation, and dissemination of innovative strategies, tools, and models for engaging students to be aware of STEM and cognate careers, and to pursue formal school-based and informal out-of-school educational experiences to prepare for such careers. ITEST supports projects that: (1) increase students’ awareness of STEM and cognate careers; (2) motivate students to pursue the appropriate education pathways for STEM and cognate careers; and/or (3) provide students with technology-rich experiences that develop disciplinary-based knowledge and practices, and non-cognitive skills (e.g., critical thinking and communication skills) needed for entering STEM workforce sectors.
  • Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Programsee DUE section above

Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)

The mission of DRL is to advance theory, method, measurement, development, and application in STEM education. The Division seeks to advance both early, promising innovations as well as larger-scale adoptions of proven educational innovations.

  • Advanced Technological Education (ATE)see DUE section above
  • Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and develop understandings of deeper learning by participants. The AISL program supports six types of projects: (1) Pathways, (2) Research in Service to Practice, (3) Innovations in Development, (4) Broad Implementation, (5) Conferences, Symposia, and Workshops, and (6) Science Learning + Proposals.
  • Cooperative Activity with Department of Energy Programs for Education and Human Resource Development (request for supplement) is a cooperative program between NSF and DoE that supports students and faculty from eligible NSF projects who are accepted as participants in one of four DoE initiatives that provide hands-on research opportunities in DoE national laboratories during the summer: Science Undergraduate Research Internships (SULI), Faculty and Student Teams (FaST), Community College Institute of Science and Technology (CCI), and Pre-Service Teacher (PST) Internships.
  • Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) invites proposals that address immediate challenges that are facing preK-12 STEM education as well as those that anticipate radically different structures and functions of pre-K 12 teaching and learning. The DRK-12 program has four major research and development strands: (1) Assessment; (2) Learning; (3) Teaching; and (4) Implementation Research.
  • EHR Core Researchsee DUE section above
  • Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST): see specialized information for K-12 educators section above
  • Promoting Research and Innovation in Methodologies for Evaluation (PRIME) seeks to support research on evaluation with special emphasis on: (1) exploring innovative approaches for determining the impacts and usefulness of STEM education projects and programs; (2) building on and expanding the theoretical foundations for evaluating STEM education and workforce development initiatives, including translating and adapting approaches from other fields; and (3) growing the capacity and infrastructure of the evaluation field. STEM-C Partnerships: MSP (STEM-CP: MSP): The STEM-C (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, including Computing) Partnerships program is a major research and development effort of two NSF Directorates and targets proposals in four areas: Community Enterprise for STEM Teaching and Learning, Current Issues Related to STEM Content, Identifying and Cultivating Exceptional Talent, and K-12 STEM Teacher Preparation.

NSF Innovation Corps

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) is a set of activities and programs that prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broadens the impact of select, NSF-funded, basic-research projects.

  • I-Corps Teams are composed of academic researchers, student entrepreneurs and business mentors–participate in the I-Corps curriculum. The curriculum is administered via online instruction and on-site activities through one of several I-Corps Nodes.
  • I-Corps Sites catalyze additional groups to explore potential I-Corps Team projects and other entrepreneurial opportunities that build on basic research.

NSF supplements

Many of the NSF directorates support supplements to existing NSF awards. The supplements listed below are supported by the NSF Biological Directorate and may be supported by other NSF directorates. If you are uncertain if your program supports a supplement, contact your NSF Program Officer.

  • Research Experience for Teachers (RET) facilitate professional development of K-12 science teachers through research experience at the cutting edge of science. The Division is particularly interested in encouraging its researchers to build mutually rewarding partnerships with teachers at inner city schools and less well endowed school districts.
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) enable undergraduate students to participate in NSF supported research. They provide summer or calendar year stipends for the students and possibly modest supplies for the undergraduate project. The students must be US citizens or permanent residents and may not receive REU support after graduating.
  • Research Opportunity Awards (ROA) enable faculty from primarily undergraduate colleges to participate in NSF supported research projects. They can provide support (e.g. salary, per diem, and travel funds) for summer research or during sabbatical leave.


List compiled by Joyce Fernandes. Program information copied from NSF’s website.

Photos by Scott Kissell, Miami University Photo Services.


A photograph of a stick-and-ball model. The balls are either red, yellow, black, white, or blue and the sticks are metal.

$1M+ NSF grant supports development of assessments to improve chemistry education

Three models -- one an illustration and two 3D stick-and-ball -- are shown.
Models like these, which represent chemical bonding, are often used to teach basic chemistry concepts to students.

In response to projections that the U.S. will need an additional one million workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by 2022, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report in 2012 that called for improving STEM education during the first two years of college.

Having spent her career researching the teaching, learning, and assessment of chemistry, Dr. Stacey Lowery Bretz, Miami University’s Volwiler Distinguished Research Professor of Chemistry, knows just how important those first two years are.

“Fewer than 40% of the students who start out majoring in a STEM field stick with it,” Bretz says.

Even students who did well in high school science classes can struggle in – and fail or drop out of – introductory-level classes in college. While in the past this attrition was accepted as a necessary “weeding out” of weaker students, the current emphasis on STEM education means faculty must reconsider their role in student learning. According to Bretz, “There’s growing recognition among science faculty that we need to do a better job teaching basic concepts.”

In Bretz’s field of chemistry, basic concepts center on understanding the structure and properties of matter. “To teach students about molecules, compounds, atoms, and ions, we use models or representations of these things,” Bretz says, “but the way students interpret our representations often leads them to develop misconceptions about the concepts we’re trying to teach.”

So, backed by a $1.28 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) – her second $1 million-plus grant since coming to Miami in 2005 – Bretz is embarking on a 5-year project to assess how students interpret representations of core chemistry concepts.

One goal of the project is to develop assessment tools that other chemistry instructors and chemistry education researchers can use to gather data on their own students’ learning. Then, Bretz and her team, including a post-doctoral fellow and four graduate students, will hold workshops to teach their colleagues how to use the tools and how to properly analyze the data they yield.

“Evidence-based instructional practices are very important,” Bretz says. “But, we have to create measurement tools to establish baseline data on learning first.” From there, researchers will be able to tell whether future innovations in pedagogy and curriculum are effective at moving the needle on student retention. And that, she reminds us, is key to answering PCAST’s call to improve STEM education.

Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director & Information Coordinator, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University

Featured image (left) used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Flickr user Charles Clegg.  Other images (above) courtesy of Stacey Lowery Bretz.

Panel gives prospective NSF GRFP applicants advice

Blue, green, and white GRFP logo. The letters "GRFP" are the focus of the logo. Written smaller, underneath "GRFP" are the words "NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program."

Current NSF research fellows, their advisors, former panel members, and prospective applicants gathered September 23 to share and learn about the NSF GRFP (Graduate Research Fellowship Program).

The mission of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is twofold:

  • Support individuals who have demonstrated the potential to be high achieving scientists and engineers early in their careers (college seniors, and first and early second year graduate students)
  • Broaden participation in science and engineering of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans.

The GRFP is unique in that awards are portable between accredited U.S. institutions and allow for project and advisor flexibility.  Current fellows and advisors concurred that in addition to an applicant’s project, the applicant’s history, background, experience, and demonstrated desire and ability to conduct research are also important.

Awards are made for five years, supplying three years of fellowship support ($32,000 stipend per year + $12,000 educational allowance per year).  With funding rates at 17%, it is important that applicants “stand out” among their peers.  Applicants are encouraged to:

  • Demonstrate a history of research and outreach experience
  • Show how their background and outreach activities will contribute to the broader impacts review criteria
  • Select references who can write strong letters attesting to the applicant’s ability to conduct research and who can address the applicant’s unique background for creating broader impacts and/or broadening participation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines

Said current psychology Fellow Taylor Tuscherer, “Showing is better than telling.  It’s not enough to say you are enthusiastic about research; you must demonstrate that enthusiasm by talking about your research and outreach experiences.  For example, rather than say that you are ‘passionate about research,’ discuss the number of labs you have worked in, the techniques and machinery you are familiar with, and list the number of projects you have worked on over the years.”

Potential applicants should read and re-read the current program guidelines (NSF 14-590).  The guidelines outline the program,award information, eligibility requirements, submission instructions, and the review criteria.  In addition, FAQs are available on the GRFP homepage.

Panelists encouraged students to:

  • Begin writing early
  • Have someone read a draft of their application prior to submission
  • Contact their references early
  • Write a clear hypothesis and objectives
  • Use headers to outline the two review criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts

Program deadlines for the 2015-16 competition are as follows:

  • Engineering; Computer & Information Science and Engineering; Materials Research: October 29, 3014
  • Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry; Physics and Astronomy: October 30, 2014
  • Social Sciences; Psychology; STEM Education and Learning: November 3, 2014
  • Life Sciences; Geosciences: November 4, 2014
  • All letters of reference: November 6, 2014

Applicants must register with NSF FastLane and apply via the GRFP module.  For assistance with your application, please contact Tricia Callahan (529-1795).

Learn more about graduate-related funding by following @MiamiOH_OARS and @MiamiUGradSch on Twitter.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

A translucent USB cable, which is lit internally by a blue LED light extends up from the bottom of the frame. Another LED-lit USB cable is vaguely visible in the background. Otherwise, the background is black.

Service learning project seeks to diversify computing

A man wearing a purple plaid shirt and a grey suit jacket stands at the front of a computer lab/classroom. Seats in the room are filled by students.
Dr. Bo Brinkman, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, leads the NSF-funded Electronics and Computing Service Scholars program, which seeks to increase the participation of women and minorities in engineering and computing.

There’s no question that women are much better represented in STEM fields than they were in the 1970s. For instance, Census Bureau data show that 47% of all mathematics workers today are women, up from 15% in 1970.

But while upwards of 40% of today’s life/physical science and social science jobs are also held by women, only 13% of engineering jobs are, and just 27% of computing jobs. In fact the rate of women’s representation in computing has actually declined since 1990.

Dr. Bo Brinkman, an associate professor in Miami University’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, lays some of the blame for this underrepresentation on the culture within the technology industry, which he describes as “toxic.”

“The stereotype of the geeky guy sitting alone in his basement coding all night is self-reinforcing,” he says. “That becomes the standard of performance.”

Brinkman points out that that kind of solitary pursuit of an individual goal is in contrast to collaborative pursuit of a communal goal, which is what characterizes predominately female “helping” professions, like teaching, social work, and nursing.

“Women and minorities tend to have more communal goals than white men,” Brinkman says, citing the results of research conducted by Miami psychology professor Dr. Amanda Diekman. “If we want to attract more women to computing, then we need to do more to welcome people who want to work with others and in the service of others.”

To that end, Brinkman – in collaboration with Diekman, electrical and computer engineering faculty professor Donald Ucci and assistant professor Peter Jamieson, and computer science and software engineering professor James Kiper – is implementing a service learning program that lets engineering and computer science students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to help solve real problems in the local community.

As we continue to integrate computing devices and the Internet into our lives in ways we may not even always be conscious of, Brinkman says there’s enormous potential to solve big and small problems. “In that way,” he says, “computing really is a helping profession. This service learning program is designed to make that idea explicit, in order to attract women and others who want to serve their communities.”

Supported by nearly $621,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program will include an Electronics and Computing Service Scholars living learning community (LLC) and will provide financial support for student-led service projects and for student travel to professional conferences. Applications are currently being accepted for the first cohort of Service Scholars, who will be enrolled in the fall of 2015.

Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director & Information Coordinator, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Featured photo (left) by viZZZual.com via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license. Photo of Bo Brinkman by Miami University Photo Services.

Looking up at several stories of office windows from inside a building. There is a round, black circle-shaped sculpture suspended from the glass ceiling of the building.

OARS offers fall workshop series

Head-and-shoulders portrait of a bespectacled woman in a tan top with a red and pink zig-zag pattern.
Former NSF program director and professor of biology Joyce Fernandes is one of the presenters for OARS’ fall workshop series.

This fall, OARS will host a series of brown-bag workshops on navigating the NSF proposal process.  Workshops will be held select Tuesdays from noon to 1:00pm in Pearson 208.  You are welcome to attend any or all of the sessions.

September 16
Writing an effective NSF proposal: what’s your sales pitch?
Led by Joyce Fernandes, Department of Biology
RSVP here.

September 23
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program: how do I apply?
Led by Tricia Callahan, OARS
RSVP here.

October 14
NSF broader impacts: integrating your research with educational activities
Led by Joyce Fernandes, Department of Biology
RSVP here.

October 21
NSF data management: what is data management, why is it important, and how do I write a sound data management plan?
Led by Eric Johnson, University Libraries
RSVP here.

November 4
Funding opportunities for STEM education
Led by Joyce Fernandes, Department of Biology
RSVP here.

November 11
NSF resubmission: how to decipher the panel summary
Led by Joyce Fernandes, Department of Biology
RSVP here.

November 18
Communicating with the NSF program officer: how, why, do’s and don’ts
Led by Joyce Fernandes, Department of Biology
RSVP here.

Featured photo (left) by Luke Faraone via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.  Photo of Joyce Fernandes (above) by Miami University Photo Services.