Public Release: 

PSU researcher receives $877,000 NSF grant to study success barriers in STEM education

Portland State University

Portland State University Sociology professor Dara Shifrer has received an $877,836 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effects race, poverty and disabilities may have on American students' success in STEM education and careers.

The five-year grant will allow Shifrer's research team to comb through a massive federal dataset collected by the National Center for Education Statistics to identify school and teacher factors that facilitate student success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. The federal study first surveyed students and their teachers in 2009 and then again in 2012 and 2013.

"We're going to look for patterns and relationships that give us a picture of how student potential may develop in certain learning environments, and how race, socioeconomic status and disabilities play into that picture," Shifrer said.

She added that minorities and youth with lower socioeconomic backgrounds or disability classifications are underrepresented in STEM fields, just as the nation's STEM workforce is in dire need of diverse well-prepared candidates.

"It is a tenacious problem that requires persistent innovative research attention," she said.

The grant has the dual purpose of producing several academic papers on STEM education and giving hands-on experience in data analysis to student research teams. The first research paper, which may offer policy recommendations on improving classroom success, will likely come out within a year.


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