Minority Undergraduate Students Connect Over STEM Research Projects at United Tribes Technical College
By Katie Scarlett Brandt
Tribal colleges often collaborate with mainstream universities on research. So do historically black colleges. But why don’t different minority-serving institutions collaborate with each other?
That simple question led to a unique opportunity for a group of undergraduate students from four HBCUs and one tribally controlled college to take part in a 10-week research project this past summer at a school other than their own. Each student spent from May to July at their choice school, conducting research and meeting weekly with a mentor.
The National Science Foundation funded the project through a program called NSF INCLUDES—an initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering by developing STEM talent from all societal sectors. The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network took the lead on the program as part of an effort to wipe out disparities between under-represented groups in STEM education.
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.”
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
Several research projects developed by students at Salish Kootenai College and Northwest Indian College are featured in a publication sponsored by the American Geophysical Union.
A recent article published in The Prow spotlights student-led projects at Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation of Montana that deepen understanding of traditional foods and environmental factors “that may impact future food availabilities.” Northwest Indian College was cited for its “hands-on research projects related to species protection and restoration along the northernmost coastline of Washington.”
These examples illustrate efforts by Native communities to “combine culture, traditional knowledge and contemporary scientific practices,” according to the article’s authors. “All this happens in the face of longstanding and ongoing challenges to tribal sovereignty established by treaties with the U.S. government.”
The full story can be found here.
The NSF is seeking highly qualified individuals to serve on a newly established STEM Education Advisory Panel.
Established in collaboration with the Department of Education, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the panel is expected to advise the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (CoSTEM), and assess progress in carrying out responsibilities related to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act.
The sponsoring agencies are now soliciting recommendations for membership on this prestigious panel. According to information provided by the NSF, the eleven-member panel will include representatives of academic institutions, non-profits, and industry. Additionally, “other factors that may be considered are balance among diverse institutions, regions, and groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
Recommendations should be submitted by November 30. Self recommendations are accepted.
For more information on the recommendation process, please visit https://nsf.gov/ehr/STEMEdAdvisory.jsp.