Students and Faculty in HPU’s Webb School of Engineering Assist in NSF-Funded Research

NSF Grant

HIGH POINT, N.C., Nov. 25, 2019 – Computer science faculty and students in High Point University’s Webb School of Engineering have been selected to assist Dr. Veronica Segarra, assistant professor of biology, and the Mayo Clinic in activating the Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success (ACCESS) project.

Awarded in fall 2017, the $484,290 National Science Foundation grant to form ACCESS focuses on building a diverse scientific workforce inclusive of underrepresented minorities by coordinating and integrating the efforts of professional scientific societies. 

Building on the scope of the project, Segarra sought HPU’s Drs. Jason Pittman and Lloyd Williams, associate professors of computer science, and three of their students, Carly Raphan, Ethan Shealey, and Blake Vogel, to help code and construct the database and website, which is scheduled to launch in 2020 to broadly disseminate ways societies are implementing STEM workforce diversification programs. Once HPU’s computer science students and faculty create the ACCESS database, surveys will be conducted that will feed into a larger database, increasing the data collecting and analysis capabilities of the ACCESS project.

HPU and the Mayo Clinic have worked together to foster an exchange of information and data among ACCESS members to understand what resources are most effective. Pulling from their findings, the program will generate publications and presentations to disseminate at scientific conferences.

“Collaborating with the Mayo Clinic on this project has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Segarra. “Not only have we learned how to best manage and harness the power of meta-organizations like ACCESS, but we have been able to leverage our resources for the advancement of STEM workforce diversification and inclusion. With the addition of HPU’s computer science faculty and students to this NSF-funded project, we have the opportunity to carry out innovative research and further demonstrate that our HPU scientific community values diversity and inclusion in STEM.”

The goals of this program are to create innovative, effective and strategic plans across member organizations to offer underrepresented individuals the opportunity to participate in the scientific enterprise, and to establish robust programs for the recruitment and retention of a diverse scientific workforce. A set of best practices and evaluation metrics will be developed and made available to the scientific community by a variety of mechanisms including conference presentations and an online database.

“I think a vital component of an extraordinary education is hands-on, experiential learning,” says Pittman. “With this grant, three of our students are taking their learning beyond the classroom and into a professional development situation. They are building something that people outside of the university will use for years to come, not just a solution to a test question. That’s the HPU difference.”

“It is exciting to have the opportunity to leverage the latest online platforms and technologies and pool information from a range of sources to help identify effective strategies to bring more diversity to STEM fields,” says Williams.

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