by Katie Scarlett Brandt
Engineering Professor Nader Vadiee spends his days trying to fix a leaky pipeline. However, this pipeline isn’t leaking water or oil. It’s losing students.
“Imagine a very leaky pipeline from the community to academia, then to industry and back to the community,” said Vadiee, who heads the Engineering Department at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in New Mexico. “My students are single moms or dads, the average age 28 or 29. My mission is to get these professionals back to the community to create jobs.”
Building this pipeline requires funding, a significant portion of which comes from federal sources. For this reason, the election of Donald Trump has many in the tribal college community on edge. That’s because, so far, President Trump’s top priorities include:
- The military—increasing defense spending by $54 billion
- Non-renewable energy—issuing an executive order to build the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines
- Big business—cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%
What’s less clear: where research and STEM education fit into these goals.
“With the Trump administration and all the scary things we’re looking at with the budget, it’s hard to predict how things are going to pan out,” said Al Kuslikis, senior associate for Strategic Initiatives at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) in Washington DC. “We’re optimistic because of the history of support from both parties, but we understand that there have to be accommodations made in the priorities of this new administration.”
Former Salish Kootenai College student Matthew Weingart receives prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for work in paleoecology
By Ryan Winn
The Flathead Indian Reservation of western Montana has been occupied by Native peoples for millennia. Over the years, its wooden mountains and fertile valleys have both shaped and been shaped by this human presence.
For Matthew Weingart, a member of the Klamath Tribe, this relationship between people and the land represents a research opportunity. Fascinated by the impact of climate, fire, and humans on landscapes over time, Weingart is digging into the soil of the reservation’s Camas Prairie where, he said, “there’s a rich cultural history and human presence” dating back at least 13,000 years.
“It is in a type of forest that is typically not well understood,” he said. “Learning more about these systems can provide useful knowledge to forest and land managers, especially in times of changing environmental conditions.”
Now pursing a master’s degree in environmental science from Montana State University, Weingart’s work in the field of paleoecology has earned him a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award. The prestigious award is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind and, according to the NSF, “has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.” Previous recipients include “numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.”
A Comparison of the Antimicrobial Activities of Cultivated Echinacea angustifolia (Purple Coneflower) versus Wild E. angustifolia
Medicinal plants have been have been used for centuries to treat various diseases across the world. While plant extracts have been used to synthesize modern commercial drugs, so far only a small percent of traditionally prescribed plant medicines have been studied for their therapeutic value. In recent years, the American public has become enamored with herbal remedies, yet there continues to be a relative scarcity of scientific research. Echinacea (purple coneflower) has received global attention because of its potential for medicinal value. Extensive laboratory and clinical research on Echinacea angustifolia in the last few years in Germany has confirmed its immunostimulatory, antiviral, and antibacterial benefit to humans. The purpose of this study is to use the agar-well diffusion method to compare antimicrobial activity of cultivated and wild E. angustifolia. We hypothesize that cultivated E. angustifolia will show more antimicrobial activity against five different strains of bacteria (two Gram-negative, three Gram-positive) due to being cultivated under ideal conditions.
Field Notes: The Native Science Report Blog
Remedial education is the great conundrum of higher education. Lot of students need it—but the time and effort required is both daunting and discouraging. Eager to earn a degree, students placed in remedial math and reading courses instead find themselves on the proverbial slow boat to China.
According David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a number of colleges and university systems, including the City University of New York, are experimenting with a new approach to remediation that accelerates learning without sacrificing rigor.
Writing in the New York Times, Kirp said the CUNY program places full-time students in need of remediation in a semester-long program that focuses exclusively on skill building. Significantly, students in the CUNY Start program are provided 25 hours of instruction each week, which, he noted, is “substantially more than the usual course load.”
“The strategy is working,” Kirp argued. “More than half the students who complete the program are ready for college in just one semester, something that’s almost impossible with regular remedial courses.” Indeed, nationwide, only one-third of students placed in remedial math courses complete their studies with a passing grade.
For more about the CUNY Start program, see:
An evaluation of similar “ASAP” remediation programs by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation can be found here:
The National Science Foundation has issued a new program solicitation for its Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), which provides support to “early-career” faculty who “have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization,” according to the solicitation synopsis.
“Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research,” according to the synopsis. “NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from early-career faculty at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.”
The solicitation also includes a description of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).
The new CAREER program solicitation (NSF 17-537) can be accessed at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17537/nsf17537.htm