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Co-designing Foundational Capabilities to Diversify the Scientific Workforce

Active Dates 9/1/2023-8/31/2026
Program Area Environmental Systems Science
Project Description
Co-designing Foundational Capabilities to Diversify the Scientific Workforce

J. L. Wilkins, Howard University (Principal Investigator)

O. Ajoku, Howard University (Co-Investigator)

S. Hagos, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Co-Investigator)

J. Hill, Brookhaven National Laboratory (Co-Investigator)

As the United States (US) population diversifies, the environmental science workforce lags behind the inclusion of historically underrepresented minorities (URM). To address the scope and scale of the dual environmental crisis faced by people and nature, we seek to ambitiously transform our understanding of climate-relevant processes while increasing workforce-ready URMs inclusion in climate science. By creating a foundationally solid URM pipeline through effective mentorship, we can increase diversity and our chances of understanding the urban-rural impacts due to climate change in the US most populated cities, which is critical to preparing and protecting Earth from future hazardous scenarios.

This proposed Office of Biological & Environmental Research Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (BER RENEW) initiative is designed to create a Promote Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) plan that catalyzes partnerships with the Department of Energy (DOE) Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences Division (EESSD) Offices address identified solvable Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) barriers. Our project, Codesigning Foundational Capabilities to Diversify the Scientific Workforce will accelerate inclusion and diversity of the US science and technology ecosystem to increase the future pool of young scientists with critical skills and expertise. In the long term, the overall goal of this project’s motivation is for DOE labs to accelerate the ability to hire students out of these workforce ready programs which would further diversity DOE staff.

The Program will be centered around Student First development and Student chosen research. By selecting a cohort of at least 3 students to be mentored in the development of DOE emerging and Critical Science Questions e.g., a required predictive capability as it is hindered by the strong heterogeneity of urban terrain, and the wide range of scales and processes that dictate how urban systems interact with the surrounding Earth system -- DOE need for the Urban Integrated Field Laboratories. The project objectives are to: i) broaden existing institutional capabilities, (ii) develop competitive advantages for experiential training opportunities, (iii) increase workforce ready URMs through effective individualized mentorship plans and PIERs.

HBCU Barriers to funding will be addressed to bridge these gaps over the three-year term with in-person (tri-quarterly) and virtual (monthly) meetings with strong mentoring to accelerate workforce development. The project aims to educate and integrate URMs into DOE science with intentional inclusion in an equitable manor will be achieved with RENEW team members visiting each other's facilities (host site tours) to share science communications (oral and posters) that result in co-developed competitive proposals. Together, we can capitalize on previously expressed interest to have an official forum of collaboration, with DOE Office of Science Laboratories, e.g., Brookhaven National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Beneficial outcomes of the RENEW program will be new fundamentally inclusive partnerships with DOE and HU tasked to understand the urban-rural impacts due to climate change in the US, related to energy issues driven by heat stress and the energy cycle that can be scaled. The overall impacts of the RENEW will be in paving the way to ensure the inclusion of diverse voices to increase climate resilience with a transdisciplinary partnership that will minimize impacts on our most vulnerable communities while constraining barriers to HBCUs and URMs.
Award Recipient(s)
  • Howard University (PI: Wilkins, Joseph)