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Georgia Southern biology professor awarded grant to support minority students

Sep 22, 2020

Georgia Southern University Professor of Biology J. Checo Colón-Gaud, Ph.D., is part of a team of researchers awarded a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support training and experiences for underrepresented minority students and early career scientists in the field of freshwater science. Funds for the project called “Emerge” will be distributed over the next five years.

“Diversity in the scientific workforce is critical to tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, including effective conservation of freshwater resources,” said Colón-Gaud, who is also associate dean of the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies. “Diversity of freshwater scientists in the U.S. is low in all dimensions, relative to the broader population. This lack of diversity may limit opportunities to engage the general public in equitable strategies to manage freshwater ecosystems.”

Over the course of the five-year project, “Emerge” will deliver more than 700 experiences to minority participants and create a roadmap that institutions and organizations can use to build a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce. Colón-Gaud said the goal is to provide opportunities to cohorts of about 30 participants each year, which will include undergraduates, graduates and early career professionals.

“Emerge” will connect students and young scientists to experts from the extensive network of professionals that are part of the Society for Freshwater Science (SFS), a professional scientific society with more than 1,800 members. The project will be an extension of Instars, an SFS program that 16 Georgia Southern students have been a part of in the past.

“Universities play a foundational role when training students in STEM areas, but underrepresented minorities still face unique challenges in pursuing STEM careers beyond college,” Colón-Gaud said. “Scientific societies can help fill these STEM training gaps. Societies publish scientific findings, host technical conferences and sustain broad professional networks. Thus, they are central to the collective pace of scientific progress, as well as the success of individual scientists.”

The lead principal investigator for the project is from the University of Georgia (UGA) and the total award of $2,006,746 will be divided among UGA, Georgia Southern, UC-Berkeley and Virginia Commonwealth University.

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