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Increasing STEM Diversity, SUU Professor to Lead Research Team

2016-11-NSF-Carrie-Bucklin.jpgThe National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Dr. Carrie Bucklin, assistant professor of biology at Southern Utah University, and her two research partners a grant aimed to increase educational opportunities for minorities in STEM-related programs and fields.

The project, which will receive over $280,000 with $19,000 specific to SUU, will target students in the Virgin Islands, a place with a very diverse demographic student population, and will gather data on what engages students in STEM fields and what may turn them away.

Bucklin will be working with associates Monica Medina, associate professor of biology at Penn State and Kristin R. Wilson Grimes, research assistant professor of watershed ecology at University of the Virgin Islands.

“This project will provide research opportunities to SUU students – specifically those interested in science education,” said Bucklin. “Having the opportunity to survey students and analyze data is a huge educational opportunity for our students that can strengthen resumes, provide interesting experiential learning projects, and give students a chance to be published in academic journals and present at regional, state and national conferences.”

This is one of 37 programs with initial awards totaling nearly $14 million that make up the "Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science" program -- or NSF INCLUDES.

NSF is a granting organization run by the government, with INCLUDE grants being given once a year. This is a new program, so for Bucklin’s team to be awarded it the first year is noteworthy in the realm of NSF grants and scientific research.

Studying-at-SUU.jpg“I like to focus on how students learn – that’s my particular path in education,” said Bucklin. “For this grant project, I plan on finding instruments that will help us determine student interests in science, attitudes toward the field at varying educational levels and what is actually being learned and retained in STEM classrooms. 

Bucklin’s research will include surveying in middle schools, high schools, undergraduate and graduate level programs. Studies have shown that in middle school, students lose interest in science, also known as the leaky pipeline metaphor.

Her surveys will focus on minorities in education, including gender and ethnicity. The Virgin Islands demographics is prime testing ground for this study, as over 85% of the population is either African American or Hispanic. 

Students interested in assisting Professor Bucklin with her research can contact her at carriebucklin@suu.edu or visit her office in SC 115.