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New NSF Grant to support Asian American and Pacific Islander students in Geoscience

December 13, 2021
Professor Sora Kim
Professor Sora Kim. Image by Veronica Adrover.

A team of eight scientists from around the country is organizing a new project to foster belonging and participation among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in the geosciences, supported by the National Science Foundation.

Paleoecology Professor Sora Kim is a member of the team that’s led by Professor Daniel Ibarra with Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Science, and Professor Kimberly Lau with Penn State’s Department of Geosciences.

“AAPI are not considered an ‘underrepresented minority’ in academic contexts, but there are disparities in education access, health outcomes and financial stability within this racial grouping,” Kim said. “This proposal recognizes the barriers faced by AAPI, and seeks to recruit, train and support early career researchers to pursue professions in geoscience.”

The project, titled AGILE (AAPI in Geoscience: Inclusivity, Leadership, and Experience), features innovative and collaborative programs and events designed to improve the awareness of geosciences among AAPI undergraduates and cultivate a national network of mentors that will boost AAPI participation in geoscience graduate programs and careers.

“The Earth and environmental sciences impact every person on our planet in some way, and so it’s a priority that our field is as inclusive as possible,” Lau said. “Who gets to become a geoscientist is a topic that the community has been focusing on. Through this project, we aim to provide more exposure to the Earth and environmental sciences, as well as create new opportunities for AAPI undergraduates to learn about how they can make an impact.”

The grant funds several new initiatives, including a pilot Research Visit Program that will support short visits by faculty, graduate students and other scientists to AAPI-serving institutions to bring awareness of geoscience careers and graduate school to AAPI students.

The project also includes career-development events and workshops, and an Undergraduate Research Internship that will connect students with meaningful geoscience research and learning opportunities. Through all of this, the organizers plan to expose as many as 1,000 undergraduates across the country to geoscience research and careers, establish a new research internship opportunity, and create national cross-career connections between AAPI geoscientists in diversity and inclusion discussions.

“We AAPI geoscientists don't typically discuss issues of identity, despite the fact that AAPI representation in the geosciences lags far behind other STEM fields and national demographics," Ibarra said. “This is an opportunity to highlight AAPI scientists who have pursued careers in geosciences and create a framework for them to give back to undergrads at AAPI-serving institution, creating a cross-career network of support, which is pretty exciting.”

Other partnering universities include the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Princeton University, CUNY Hunter College, Bellevue College and UC Riverside.