San Jose State University gets millions in federal STEM funding
Students walk on campus at San Jose State University. File photo.

    San Jose State University is getting millions in federal funds to bolster STEM research and education, with more than half the money going toward encouraging low-income students to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

    More than $4.4 million is coming to the university through the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency that supports STEM work. Approximately $2.5 million will help SJSU establish a series of summer education programs for low-income high school juniors and seniors.

    Richard Mocarski, associate vice president for research at SJSU, said providing these students access to paid research and mentorship opportunities will create a “pipeline” for them to pursue STEM degrees and careers.

    “This support is designed to increase students’ sense of belonging, strengthen core skill sets and facilitate community engagement among a robust network of faculty, staff, peers and Silicon Valley technology professionals,” Mocarski told San José Spotlight.

    Mocarski said the program will begin this September with a six-year timeline and 20 high school students, who are being recruited through SJSU’s Financial Aid and Scholarship office and through outreach to students who are eligible for the Pell grant—undergraduates deemed as having exceptional financial need.

    SJSU will use more than $1.1 million of the remaining funds to strengthen teaching resources, including funding research on how to strengthen relationships between undergraduate learning assistants and their STEM professors. Mocarski said the presence of student learning assistants in classrooms often encourages them to be more active participants and stay engaged in class.

    The research effort, which began under a different grant last year called CSU Create, will begin this fall and continue for five years. It will affect roughly 6,500 undergraduates, 100 learning assistants, three student researchers and 70 tenure track and lecturer professors in STEM departments, Mocarski said.

    “These two grants represent exactly what San Jose State is all about, which is bringing our wealth of faculty experience to the next generation of STEM students and teachers to enrich their experience and give them opportunities for those high impact practices of hands-on learning,” Mocarski said.

    Two additional grants, each under $400,000, will be used to improve teaching tools for linear algebra courses and encourage undergraduates to participate in space research, respectively.

    Congressmember Zoe Lofgren—member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee—and Reps. Anna Eshoo, Ro Khanna and Jimmy Panetta put out a joint statement in support of providing funding to students who have “traditionally been left behind.”

    “These projects will diversify the nation’s STEM workforce pipeline, advance our understanding of the universe and improve STEM education in Silicon Valley, the heart of American innovation and home to thousands of technology companies,” the congressmembers said.

    The National Science Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

    Contact Isha Trivedi at t[email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ishaa_trivedi.

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