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$2 million NSF grant to help Tuskegee prepare future material scientists

August 07, 2017

Contact: Michael Tullier, APR
Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Dr Shaik Jeelani

Tuskegee University has received a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to prepare undergraduate students for careers in materials science engineering.

The grant — awarded by NSF’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) — aims to bolster science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at the HBCUs that already award a large share of bachelor’s degrees to African-American students. NSF’s HBCU-UP seeks to help meet the nation’s accelerating demands for STEM talent and ensure more rapid gains in STEM degree completion among underrepresented minority populations, who ultimately will fill vital roles in the nation’s STEM workforce.

Material scientists have a profound impact on technological, aerospace, agricultural, military, healthcare, transportation and sports industries; however, few U.S. colleges and universities offer undergraduate-level degree programs in this field. To address these deficiencies and diversity challenges in the current materials engineering workforce, a group of Tuskegee faculty scientists and engineers — under the direction of Dr. Shaik Jeelani, Tuskegee University’s vice president for research, dean of graduate studies, and the grant’s principal investigator — is collaborating to develop an innovative undergraduate and co-curricular model, which is funded by the HBCU-UP grant.

Under the grant, Tuskegee University juniors and seniors from various STEM majors will study in the new material science engineering minor. In parallel with their primary major, students pursuing a minor in material science engineering will complete intensive multidisciplinary coursework in the field, co-curricular activities designed to prepare them for MSE-related graduate studies, and experiences akin to those of STEM professionals

“The potential for our graduates in the material science engineering field is limitless,” Jeelani said. “We hope the exciting features of our undergraduate MSE model will attract more minority students for advanced studies and careers in MSE. The program will bridge well with our successful graduate-level programs in MSE.”

Recruitment of new material science engineering minors will begin this fall. The faculty team anticipates that, during the five-year funding period, the undergraduate minor program will prepare as many as 100 undergraduate STEM majors for careers in material science engineering.

“This is an excellent example of the impact of research on the academic infrastructure, particularly the undergraduate curriculum,” said Dr. Charlotte P. Morris, Tuskegee’s interim president. “The outcomes of this academic collaboration also underscore Tuskegee University’s long-standing tradition of linking education and workforce preparation as a foundation for our graduates’ lifetime success.”

The multidisciplinary faculty team also includes Assistant Professor Willard Collier and Associate Professor Michael Curry, both of the Department of Chemistry; Professor Mohammed A. Qazi of the Department of Mathematics; and Associate Professor and Department Head Mahesh Hosur, Associate Professor Vijaya Rangari, Associate Professor Alfred Tcherbi-Narteh and Assistant Professor Shaik Zainuddin, all of the Department of Material Science.

© 2017 Tuskegee University