Historically, minority students have struggled to be represented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Today, according to a National Science Foundation study, Hispanic or Latino workers represent only 14% of the STEM workforce, while only 12% identify as Black or African American. Little progress has been made in recent decades to improve this representation.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is helping to develop the next generation of researchers going into STEM careers by mentoring minority graduate students as part of the GEM Consortium Fellowship Program. This consortium is a nonprofit network of over 150 universities, government research facilities and multinational corporations.
“Scientific innovation depends on diversity within the STEM careers. We need unique and diverse perspectives in science to help solve some of the most pressing scientific and engineering challenges of our time.” — Associate Laboratory Director Kawtar Hafidi.
“Scientific innovation depends on diversity within the STEM careers,” said Kawtar Hafidi, Argonne’s associate laboratory director for Physical Sciences and Engineering. “If we only include people from similar backgrounds or those with a similar way of seeing and tackling problems, then we’re missing out on the ingenuity, brilliance and potential that individual people bring to the table. We need unique and diverse perspectives in science to help solve some of the most pressing scientific and engineering challenges of our time.”
Argonne pairs GEM students with scientific experts who serve as mentors, providing guidance and feedback on the students’ projects throughout the program. Students also have access to Argonne’s world-class facilities.
“This is a great opportunity for graduate students to gain real-world laboratory experience and hone their research interests. For some, it’s the first job experience they’re getting, so mentors act not only as scientific mentors, but in many cases, also as career coaches,” said Kamlesh Suthar, principal mechanical engineer at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, a DOE Office of Science user facility.
In 2021, Argonne’s first cohort of GEM students conducted research in diverse STEM fields such as applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, environmental engineering and physics. Mentors provided guidance and feedback on students’ projects throughout the program.
“Students are also prepared to establish research priorities along with development of skills such as seeking help, report and publication writing and poster and paper presentation,” said Suthar, who serves as a mentor to three students participating in the 2021 and 2022 GEM cohorts.
Argonne welcomed the 2022 GEM cohort this summer including students from 11 states and 13 universities. Their STEM fields include physics, astrophysics, computer science, artificial intelligence, mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering, and applied mathematics, among others.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.