Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia recently received a $638,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support select incoming freshmen interested in the study of engineering or physics, laying the groundwork for a new generation of scientists.
The program, Developing Excellence in Engineering and Physics, or DEEP, will provide approximately 20 scholarships to academically talented students with demonstrated financial need so they may pursue degrees in physics or a variety of engineering tracks, including agricultural, biochemical, biological, computer systems or environmental engineering.
“We need more students and professionals in these fields both here in Georgia and throughout the country,” said Steven Lewis, principal investigator for the grant and associate professor of physics in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “There are tremendous workforce needs, and we need to prepare our students to fill those positions.”
A key goal of the DEEP Scholars program is to recruit and retain students from groups traditionally underrepresented in physics and engineering, including women, African-Americans, Hispanics and first-generation college students.
Each incoming student will be assigned a faculty mentor from either the department of physics and astronomy or the College of Engineering who will guide pupils through the program of study, help solve any problems they encounter along the way and facilitate meetings with professionals who currently work in academia or industry.
“We want our students to network and interact with working scientists and engineers as much as possible,” Lewis said. “Simply talking with different working professionals will let students see the variety of career options they can pursue and what skills they need to be successful in those positions.”
DEEP students will participate in and plan several seminars throughout the academic year and an annual symposium, giving them the opportunity to present real scientific research and engineering design to an audience of their peers and mentors.
The program will fund eight students during the first year, followed by another class the following year. Assuming the students meet high performance standards, their funding will last for four years.
Each cohort will take key classes together and participate in weekly study sessions led by upper-level undergraduates, which will help ensure that no one falls behind in their studies. The DEEP leadership team will monitor student progress throughout the program to determine if each project component contributes to student success, and they will present their findings to fellow educators at regional and national meetings.
DEEP students also will have the opportunity to earn interdisciplinary certification in engineering and physics, combining both a theoretical and practical understanding of the physical sciences and engineering systems.
Ultimately, the group hopes that the DEEP program may serve as a model to other universities and colleges looking for evidence-based practices to boost student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
“We are going to provide many levels of support, both academic and social, to foster recruitment and retention of students who will be part of the next generation of scientists and engineers,” Lewis said.
Co-principal investigators for the project include William Dennis, professor of physics; Timothy Foutz, professor of engineering; Charles Kutal, associate dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, director of the Office of STEM education and professor of chemistry; and Judy Milton, assistant dean in UGA’s Graduate School.
UGA College of Engineering
The University of Georgia College of Engineering educates students to become leaders in their chosen profession, create new knowledge through use-inspired fundamental research, and transform this knowledge into useful technologies that enhance our state, nation and the world. Students are prepped to become successful, practicing engineering leaders, capable of working in any complex arena. For more information, see www.engineering.uga.edu.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
The Department of Physics and Astronomy, one of the first academic departments at the University of Georgia, has a long tradition of excellence in education. Benefiting from state-of-the-art pedagogies and a rigorous program of study, students earning a physics degree from UGA are well prepared for the next step, be it furthering their education at the graduate level or entering the broad STEM workforce.