Current Research
Improved Retention of Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in the Physical Sciences Through Early Research Immersion

The principal aim of the proposed project is to pilot a model for early and sustained research immersion and mentoring support, with the goal of greatly increasing the retention of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in physical sciences majors.

Data show that, as freshmen, underrepresented minorities are just as likely as their majority peers to express an interest in physical sciences majors, but are overwhelmingly more likely to switch away from physical sciences majors by their sophomore or junior year. Research suggests that immersive engagement in research, starting very early, can be a key intervention to help these students develop a ‘science identity,’ which is so crucial to persistence in the field.

The broader context for the project is that it will leverage an NSF INCLUDES grant and the newly launched Vanderbilt Center for Autism & Innovation to serve as a crucial first link in a longer chain of experiences and connections, including deliberate bridging from undergraduate to graduate research and beyond, leading to a more diverse and inclusive professoriate and STEM workforce: the ultimate vision is an end-to-end pipeline—from freshman to PhD to postdoc and then into the faculty or workforce—for women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in the physical sciences.

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