Part of Energize New Mexico's vision includes creating a well-qualified STEM workforce while promoting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. NM EPSCoR provides activities that engage and support learners at all educational levels, leading to a diverse future in STEM. Greater educational success in STEM enables New Mexicans to take advantage of well-paid employment opportunities and increase our research competitiveness.
Bringing hands-on STEM research and education to rural and native colleges in New Mexico
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Advancement Program (STEMAP) undergraduate research experience has provided transformative academic opportunities to underrepresented students across New Mexico, contributing to a strengthened and diverse STEM workforce and community in the State. STEMAP gives undergraduate students from non-research universities and two-year colleges the opportunity to spend eight weeks working with faculty at a research university. Often, this is the first formal research experience of their academic careers. Because mentorship is strongly associated with future STEM success of underrepresented minorities and women, an important element of STEMAP was the fostering of mentoring relationships for participating students—with with faculty at research universities, near-peers (undergraduate and graduate students engaged in research teams), and with faculty mentors at their home institutions.
In its entirety, the STEMAP program welcomed 50 undergraduates (92% female or underrepresented minority) from 14 primarily undergraduate institutions (93% minority-serving) across New Mexico in the summers of 2014–2017. Of these students, 15 have transferred to 4-year universities, 20 have graduated or will graduate by May 2018, two are in graduate school, and five are in the workforce. Eight STEMAP students have presented their research at conferences, including the national SACNAS and AISES conferences, five students have recieved poster presentation awards, and one is a co-author on a peer-reviewed paper published in the American Chemical Society journal Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
NM EPSCoR's primary vehicle for disseminating research to learners of all ages and backgrounds
NM EPSCoR understands the need to communicate scientific concepts to the public to increase science literacy, especially for future generations. The New Mexico Informal Science Education Network (NM ISE Net) increases the ability of informal educators, such as museum staff and citizen scientists, to support STEM learning and education. Year 5 activities included an exhibit evaluation training in a collaboration between Explora and Energize New Mexico’s external museum evaluator, and a lecture series about sustainable energy research at the Farmington Museum that featured three NM EPSCoR researchers.
The final Network meeting was held in conjunction with a two-day training on the state’s science standards. New Mexico’s largest celebration of science, the NM Science Fiesta, took place the week of May 14–21, 2018, with participation by all NM EPSCoR research components and many NM ISE Net organizations, and attracted over 5000 visitors.
NM ISE Net also worked closely with NM EPSCoR scientists to communicate Energize New Mexico research to the public by providing mini-grants with funding up to $3000 for events and programming. Two were awarded in Year 5: one to support the NM Science Fiesta and one to support professional development for two ISE Net members around K-12 science. A mini-grant awarded in Year 4 to the Albuquerque Biopark to develop algae education materials for Tingley Beach, a city-owned facility used for public recreation, completed its scope of work in Year 5 by unveiling new educational material developed in conjunction with Bioalgal Research co-lead Becky Bixby and hosting a public event.
Two museum exhibits funded by NM EPSCoR opened to the public in Year 5. The Solar Exhibit at Explora explains the difference between organic and conventional solar cells and short videos showcase NM EPSCoR’s solar energy research. The Uranium Exhibit,“What’s Up with U?”, is housed at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and highlights research of the Uranium team. Museum staff and Uranium team researchers have collaborated closely on the content and structure.
Additionally, the computer game from our Year 4 exhibit at the NM Museum of Natural History and Science Bioalgae exhibit has been launched as a web-based application, which allows it to be remotely accessed and used at outreach events like family science nights and school-based programs. The NM EPSCoR office has used it at Navajo STEM events at Chapterhouses across the Navajo Nation and at “UNM Day” at the New Mexico Legislature. In sum, these museum exhibits provide a vehicle for NM EPSCoR research to be shared with hundreds of thousands of members of the general public, on a much larger scale than could be accomplished through traditional outreach activities.
Connecting informal science education with formal standards-based classroom education
NM ISE Net members provide a week-long energy institute for upper elementary and middle school teachers, plus two follow-up workshops, that provide all the necessary ingredients for building a scientific way of thinking in teachers and students. The final Teacher Institute for Energize New Mexico was conducted in Northern New Mexico in Taos; follow-up workshops occurred at the state science teacher conference in the fall and Santa Fe in the spring. A total of 23 teachers from 11 schools across eight school districts participated in the Teacher Institute that was facilitated by instructors from ISE Net members and the New Mexico Public Education Department.
The large majority (78%) of the teachers showed substantial gains in energy knowledge as measured by a pre- and post-test assessment. Additionally, they rated the Institute very high as compared to other professional learning experiences, with more than 68% reporting it as the best professional development they had ever experienced. The Teacher Professional Development Institute model will be sustained through the Public Education Department, which has adopted this model of teacher professional development and has committed to fund science teacher institutes for up to 600 teachers per year.
Providing opportunities for gradauate to conduct research at partnering institutions and companies
The externship program is a research opportunity allowing graduate students to spend a semester (or summer) at a partnering New Mexico university, research facility, or industry partner. Nine graduate students, four individuals plus a team of five students, participated in the Year 5 externship program from the Solar and Bioalgal research components. The externships involved students from UNM, NMSU, and NMT, who visited SFCC, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the New Mexico Consortium, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The New Mexico Consortium externship resulted in Taylor Britton (UNM) receiving funding for the remainder of his PhD. You can view all Energize New Mexico Externship Reports on our blog.
Using an interdisciplinary approach to solve complex problems that can transform science
Interdisciplinary Innovation Working Groups (I-IWGs) provide a venue for researchers, educators,and nationally-recognized experts to address grand challenges that require an interdisciplinary approach to transform science. IWG support (up to $7500) is aimed at working groups that emphasize the collaborative development and testing of important ideas and theories, cutting-edge analysis of recent or existing data and information, the use of sound science policy and management decisions, and investigation of social issues that pertain to energy development that minimizes impacts on water and the environment. In Year 5, NM EPSCoR funded the following I-IWGs:
New Mexico Computational Science Pathway: An Integral Part of New Mexico’s Cyberinfrastructure for Research and Education: This I-IWG convened computer scientists, educators, and policy advocates from eight institutions. The group created a vision for computer science in New Mexico and a pathway for completing that vision. Among the outcomes were new collaborations among universities and national laboratories to create specialized mid-level computational science courses.
Water Resilience in the Intermountain West through Coordinated Research and Innovation: This I-IWG builds upon success of the Social & Natural Science Nexus team’s New Mexico Dynamic Statewide Water Budget to explore a region-wide water budget approach to identify western trends in changing hydrology. The three-day event hosted representatives from water managers and universities across 11 states to tackle the grand challenge of water scarcity and management in the Western U.S.
Promoting inclusion and diversity for faculty from primarily undergraduate institutions
The Faculty Leadership & Professional Development Institute (FLPDI) comprises opportunities for faculty from primarily undergraduate universities to support STEM learning, especially among under-represented minorities. Through the program, participants gain skills and strategies to support student success in STEM with a focus on support and retention. In Year 5, 26 faculty from 12 primarily undergraduate institutions participated in two day-long workshops facilitiated by NM EPSCoR staff, the first on promoting undergraduate research experiences and the second on Project and Problem Based Learning. Participants gained valuable skills and strategies and explored ways to incorporate those strategies into their own teaching. FLPDI also helped establish a network of PUI faculty and program administrators who are familiar with the project mission and are committed to disseminating project information and opportunities.
Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce
In partnership with New Mexico First, NM EPSCoR co-convened a Town Hall on April 10–11, 2018, on higher education reform and workforce development. NM EPSCoR sponsored the Energy Workforce Development track which addressed challenges related to New Mexico’s energy workforce and streamlining the state’s training pipeline. Higher educational institutions grapple with how to efficiently produce the graduates needed to fill industry demand despite considerable workforce pipeline barriers. Town Hall participants started with data-driven analyses and informed resident deliberations, then developed consensus recommendations. By the end of the event, the Town Hall generated consensus-supported direction and actionable policy recommendations for education, community, business and policy leaders seeking optimal alignment of education and the workforce, as well as statewide economic prosperity.
Encouraging middle school students to ask questions, develop answers through scientific inquiry, and design solutions
In Year 5, the Growing Up Thinking Computationally (GUTC) program focused on providing teacher training, support for in-school implementation of computational thinking modules, and a week-long summer camp for middle-school students. Twenty middle-school teachers from two southern New Mexico school districts (Las Cruces and Gadsden) participated in a week-long teacher workshop in Summer 2017 and learned how to integrate computer science modules into Earth, Physical, and Life Science courses. Sixteen high school teachers participated in two days of training on Computational Thinking and tools including ozobots, BoeBots, SCRATCH, and Python programming. Overall, this program will increase the number and diversity of middle and high school teachers who successfully implement computer science concepts into their classes and produce students who are better prepared to enter into computer science pathways in college.
The first accelerator whose sole purpose is the success of creative & cultural entrepreneurs
The Creative Startups Accelerator was launched in 2014 with seed funding from NM EPSCoR and now is located in three sites domestically (Albuquerque; Winston-Salem, NC; Baltimore, MD) and internationally in Kuwait and Malaysia. They have graduated 65 startups from 7 international Accelerator cohorts, and 40 startups from the New Mexico Accelerator program. Creative Startups has close to 100 local and international mentors and experts. To date, the startup companies that participated in the Accelerator have raised $11 million in private investment, generated $10 million in new revenues, and created over 160 new jobs in New Mexico and 210 jobs globally. Seventy percent of these startups are women- or minority-owned. Additional accomplishments can be viewed in their 2018 Impact Report.
In 2017, Creative Startups launched their new Creative Startups LABS program to address the needs of early stage startups and entrepreneurs and prepare them for a full Accelerator program. Sixteen New Mexico–based startups participated in the inaugural LABS cohort. The LABS program will be expanded in 2018 with the development of “Libraries as Launchpads” in six public libraries throughout New Mexico. This program will connect entrepreneurs in rural and tribal communities to the educational resources needed to expand their businesses.