Author Archives: Paul Boyer

Webinar for linguists applying for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The Linguistic Society of America is hosting a webinar for linguistics scholars focused on applying for the National Science Foundation’s  Graduate Research Fellowships.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, May 10 from 2:30 to 4:30 PM US EDT.

Register for the webinar here.  Participation is limited to 100 attendees, but the webinar will be archived for later viewing.

According to the LSA’s announcement, “students early in their research training – undergraduates, post bacs, first or second year graduate students, those whose graduate training was interrupted, and faculty advisors – are encouraged to attend, especially those from tribal colleges  (TCUs),  historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other minority serving institutions.”

Digging Deep

Former Salish Kootenai College student Matthew Weingart receives prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for work in paleoecology

By Ryan Winn

Matt Weingart in the lab.

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.”

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NSF inviting input on cyberinfrastructure strategy

The National Science Foundation is soliciting input on Future Needs for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure to Support Science and Engineering.

Responses to this Request for Information will, according to the NSF announcement, “directly inform the shaping of NSF’s investment plans for research cyberinfrastructure – advanced computing; data, software, and networking infrastructure; cybersecurity, and associated workforce development – to revolutionize the frontiers of all science and engineering domains over the next decade and beyond.”

The response deadline is April 5, 2017, 5:00 PM ET.  The Dear Colleague Letter provides full background and the a link to the required submission website: https://www.nsfci2030.org.

White House’s proposed budget targets science

Since the November presidential election, the science community has anxiously worried about the fate of programs and agencies that support and conduct research in the sciences. President Trump’s proposed budget, released this week, offers little reassurance and is already generating a flurry of news stories and commentary.

According to a March 16 New York Times story, the proposed budget “took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research.” While this was anticipated, the story noted that “the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators.” It stated:

“The reductions include $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health, which fund thousands of researchers working on cancer and other diseases, and $900 million, or a little less than 20 percent, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds the national laboratories, considered among the crown jewels of basic research in the world.”

The story noted that the budget reflects an effort to zero-out funding for all climate change research, including within the EPA.

The budget must be passed by Congress and will, as is always the case, undergo significant changes. Indeed, some proposed cuts are already being deemed “non-starters” by several Republican leaders in Congress, particularly cuts to medical research.

Not all agencies are affected equally. Several websites and science advocacy organizations noted that the National Science Foundation was not mentioned in the White House’s budget. “Given the cuts seen for many other federal science agencies…some have seen the omission in the budget outline released today as a blessing,” observed the SAGE-sponsored website, Social Science Space.

Restoring Native Prairie Lands

Students and staff at Sisseton Wahpeton College in South Dakota have re-seeded 100 acres of farmland, restoring a lost prairie.

By Katie Scarlett Brandt

A sea of green grasses swayed across the northern plains 200 years ago. They created a dry, land-locked ocean, filled with bison instead of whales, birds in place of fish.

With European settlement, much of North America’s grasslands were lost by the middle of the twentieth century, largely due to extensive farming. Of the more than 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie that once covered the plains, less than 4 percent remains, according to the National Park Service.

However, Sisseton Wahpeton College in Sisseton, South Dakota is working to bring it back. The tribal college, located in northeastern South Dakota, seeded a 100-acre parcel located behind college’s rural campus in 2009, converting it from farmland after two years of planning. Eight years later, college employees and students work together to eliminate non-native species and restore the prairie grasses, flowers, and shrubs that once occupied the area.

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Awards for “makers” making a difference

Infosys Foundation USA has launched its second year of the Infy Maker Awards competition to provide $10,000 to adult “makers” who are working on social impact projects. This year’s themes are education, health, environmental sustainability, and combating hunger.

Infosystems Foundation USA is a non-profit organization working to “expand professional development in computer science, coding, and making, especially for educators teaching in historically under-represented schools and communities,“ according to its website.

Applicants are asked to upload a photo and 90 second video and “answer several questions about your project and the problem you’re trying to solve.”

And what, exactly, is a “maker”? Adweek offers this quick definition:

“A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans, the niche is established enough to have its own magazine, Make, as well as hands-on Maker Faires that are catnip for DIYers who used to toil in solitude. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers.”

If that sounds like you or someone you know, the deadline for applying is Feb. 28, 2017.

For more information visit www.infymakers.com

I’m curious: Does this movement resonate in native communities, tribal colleges, and minority-serving colleges? Are there any students or instructors who consider themselves “makers”? Let us know.

Engineers Save the Day

A new children’s book series created by students at College of Menominee Nation presents engineers as problem-solving heroes

By Ryan Winn

Simply put, there aren’t enough Native Americans pursuing STEM degrees. As the National Science Foundation reported in its Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 Report, American Indians and Alaska Natives received a mere 0.4% of all master’s degrees in science and engineering between 1985 and 2005. Examining barriers, research has documented a widespread belief among American Indian students, even in the early years of their education, that science, math and engineering fields are difficult, uninteresting, and not relevant to their lives.

Future Engineer in Training Series.

Combating these attitudes, College of Menominee Nation’s STEM HERO Program is making math, science, and engineering meaningful and relevant to Native students by offering hands-on, culturally grounded, and interdisciplinary approaches to STEM education. One of our most recent projects, publication of a children’s book series about engineering, is testament to our success.

Partially funded by the National Science Foundation’s Tribal College and University Program, two fellow faculty members and I created and implemented a model that led our engineering students through the process of book creation and publication. Next, we devised classroom activities utilizing K’NEX toy sets and shared our work with grade school educators and students in our community. We empowered our engineering students to create stimulating tools that inspire young people to engage in STEM. It’s an exciting process we hope to help replicate beyond Northeastern Wisconsin.

Creating Interest in STEM

The genesis for our work began when engineering professor Dr. Lisa Bosman expressed interest in transforming a lecture-based Introduction to Engineering course into a more active learning environment.

“Initially I assigned students present their research about the various engineering fields at each course meeting,” Dr. Bosman said. “I then asked the class to give feedback and pose questions before supplementing and clarifying any areas that needed it. While this was a helpful way to flip the classroom, the presentations revealed that students needed help building their research and communication skills.”

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New program solicitation announced for NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program

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