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Online Effort to Diversify Ranks of Top Scientists
The Minority Scientists Network
Based on advice from focus groups, and with startup support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, MiSciNet features first-person advice, inspirational profiles, information on funding and career opportunities, and more. (See related article, “New Voices in Science.”)
“The Minority Scientists Network is an effort to provide a virtual online source of support for these students, as well as their teachers and university administrators,” says Ellis Rubinstein, founder of Science’s Next Wave, and editor of the magazine. “Too often, the students feel isolated, and they don’t always have access to appropriate role models or resources.”
Since the 1970s, a number of programs have successfully fattened the ranks of minority students who obtain undergraduate degrees in science, mathematics, or engineering: Between 1987 and 2000, African-American representation among all students receiving bachelor’s degrees in engineering increased from 3.4 percent to 5.0%. And, although representation among Latino students earning undergraduate degrees in engineering during this same period increased by 67%, Latino students still only earned 6.5% of all baccalaureates.
But, the number of minority students receiving PhDs continues to be extremely low, explains Shirley Malcom, head of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources. In 2000, US citizens earned 513 doctoral degrees in mathematics-and only 14 were awarded to African Americans. Another 14 were earned by Hispanic students, and Native American students received 2 of these degrees, says Malcom, citing National Science Foundation data.
“Statistics on doctoral degrees in the field of engineering were similarly dismal,” says Malcom, “and data in the biological sciences are only slightly less grim. Too many promising minority students leave the science-mathematics-engineering pipeline before they reach graduate school. We must find ways to recruit these students in greater numbers and keep them moving forward toward their final goals.”
The new site is a joint effort of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and Science’s Next Wave the career-development site. MiSciNet has features that address the hunger for specific networking and professional opportunities--such as a meetings database; lists of scholarship and funding resources including GrantsNet; and links to mentoring organizations and publications. For example, Professor Albert J. Rosa contributed an essay on the “Making of an Engineer,” a summer immersion course for minority high-school students interested in engineering. Profiles of successful recruitment programs, and a question-and-answer feature called “MentorCoach,” provide how-to advice and encouragement for students, educators, and university leaders.
-- Ginger Pinholster
See related article, “New Voices in Science.”