James A. Teeri, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, directs the Michigan program, which began in mid-October. His mission is to recruit graduate students for NSF's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) programs around the country.
"In the last 10 years there has been a growing realization that the really big problems in science are not going to be solved within one discipline," Teeri said. "The big complex problems, like those affecting the environment or advances in information technology, will require expertise from many areas."
NSF started the IGERT program in 1997 with the goal to educate U.S. doctorate students with interdisciplinary backgrounds, deep knowledge in their chosen disciplines and a combination of technical, professional and personal skills that will enable them to become leaders and agents for change in their careers.
"The IGERT program is working well, but the principal investigators at the programs around the country realized some time ago that something was missing---and that something was diversity," Teeri said. "At the same time, these P.I.'s are very busy people, so while they want a more diverse group of students, they haven't been able to devote a full-scale recruiting program to attract them."
With NSF's support, Teeri stepped in to fill the gap. His first job is to find potential students and educate them about IGERT. Then he will identify their interests and match them with IGERT programs.
For the last month, Teeri has been traveling around the country, connecting with professional society programs that help women and minority undergraduates move on to graduate school and careers in engineering and science. "I've been impressed by the number of excellent programs out there, but at the same time I've found a tremendous lack of awareness about IGERT. Virtually none of the students had heard about this opportunity and neither had their mentors," Teeri said.
Judging by the interest so far, Teeri is optimistic about his prospects for success. "I predict that in the next few years we're going to see a significant increase in the number of minority and women students getting degrees in engineering, science and mathematics in IGERT programs," Teeri said. "The programs are there, the students are there and the interest is there on both sides. It just needs someone to make the connection."
For more information about the IGERT program, see www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/igert/
For more information about the recruiting program, contact James Teeri at email@example.com
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