Grant aims to increase STEM engagement in Indigenous communities

TWU's new Scientific Research Commons, located on the southeast corner of the university's Denton campus.
TWU's new Scientific Research Commons, located on the southeast corner of the university's Denton campus.

January 28, 2021 — DENTON — The National Science Foundation has awarded a $99,786 planning grant that will allow a TWU research team to develop strategies to recruit and retain more Indigenous students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

The project, titled “Transcending Barriers for Success,” will address participation challenges for Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Native Pacific Islander (NAAN-NHPI) students. Recent studies estimate the percentage of NAAN-NHPI students who complete a degree in STEM majors is lower than any other minority group. Only 17% of Native American and Indigenous students continue their education after high school (compared to 60% of the U.S. population), and only 7% will complete a bachelor’s degree.

“By including diverse perspectives and creating a culturally-conscious curriculum, we aim to improve STEM success, particularly for NAAN-NHPI students. The project provides the planning groundwork and network to ensure ongoing engagement of the NAAN-NHPI community, which will ultimately contribute to a more diverse and prosperous national workforce,” said Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan, Ph.D., a co-principal investigator and associate professor of physics in the TWU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Mirsaleh-Kohan’s TWU team is led by principal investigator Amy Shachter of Santa Clara University and supported by fellow co-principal investigators Marty Matlock of the University of Arkansas, Amy Sprowles of Humboldt State University and Hokulani Aikau of the University of Utah. The project will be anchored within these five institutions and supported by the University of Hawai’i, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, and Alaskan Native communities with contributions from both two- and four-year institutions.


NSF planning grants are funded by NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES), a comprehensive national initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in STEM at scale. 

Media Contact

Anna Ryan

Page last updated 1:26 PM, January 28, 2021