Carolina ADMIRES Promotes Diversity in Science

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Beginning this June, the Carolina ADMIRES program (Assisting in Development and Mentoring an Innovative Research Experience in Science) will make it possible for high school students to conduct research in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields under the guidance of a Carolina faculty mentor. Amy Oldenburg, an assistant professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s department of

Physics and Astronomy, has teamed up with Diversity and Multicultural Affairs to offer this exciting opportunity that is designed to encourage students to pursue STEM majors.

Dr. Amy Oldenburg

Dr. Amy Oldenburg- Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy

ADMIRES was developed as the outreach component of a grant Oldenburg received from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  She came to the task of writing her proposal with a specific model in mind, and reached out to DMA to make it a reality.  Through NSF funding, her goal was to work with DMA to create an experience similar to Research Rocks—a former DMA initiative that provided high school students with research experiences and a faculty mentor. Oldenburg became involved with Research Rocks during her first years at UNC.

Although DMA was unable to continue the program, Oldenburg was inspired by the connections she made through Research Rocks and was committed to finding new opportunities to connect with young students interested in STEM. She developed the grant proposal and worked with DMA to ensure that diversity was a central component of the program.

“I wanted to see this type of program revived here at UNC, which offers an ideal environment for focused outreach,” she says.  “The STEM disciplines suffer from a lack of many of the best students who happen to come from diverse backgrounds, with women, minorities, and economically disadvantaged students greatly underrepresented in these disciplines.  I wanted to address this gap at a crucial phase in the development in a student’s life.”

Carolina ADMIRES will target high school girls and students from other groups underrepresented in STEM, such as American Indian, Latina/o, and African American students.  A cohort of twenty-five students will have monthly on-campus meetings with their assigned faculty mentors, spending the fall semester focusing on professional development and embarking on their own research in the spring.

“The ADMIRES grant proposal was a perfect example of how DMA can work with grant writers and principal investigators to add a diversity component to their work,” said DMA Director of Inclusive Student Excellence Ada Wilson. “With forethought and cooperation, we were able to devise a pipeline program for early high school students to channel their interests in the STEM fields to a real-world research experience and possibly capture the imaginations of future talented scientists.”

Meshay Long

Meshay Long- lead student coordinator for Carolina ADMIRES

Junior psychology major Meshay Long serves as academy development coordinator in DMA’s Inclusive Student Excellence program and will serve as the Carolina ADMIRES lead student coordinator.  Meshay is a student leader on campus who has a background in diversity and inclusion and has been active with the Minority Student Recruitment Committee, the Carolina Indian Circle and Alpha Pi Omega, Carolina’s first historically Native sorority.

Oldenburg hopes that the guidance of experienced professionals and the freedom to pursue their scientific interests will awaken participants to the roles STEM fields could play in their futures.  “It’s passion that is so important for success in science, as it will carry them through all of the hard work in order to make an impact in their chosen field,” she says.  “At the same time, students will see by example that successful scientists come from all backgrounds.”

ADMIRES is now accepting applications for the coming academic year.  Transportation will be arranged for students who live at a distance from the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

For more information regarding ADMIRES, contact Amy Oldenburg at aold@physics.unc.edu. For other information regarding diversity at UNC, contact Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at diversity@unc.edu or visit diversity.unc.edu.

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