BU Is Promoting Diversity in STEM Fields

It just got a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.


Photo via istock.com/asiseeit

In 2015, U.S. News and World Report found that diversity rates in STEM fields—that’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—had barely budged since 2001. Black and Latino individuals, the report found, made up just 16 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce, 15 percent of the computing workforce, and 12 percent of the engineering workforce. Women of any race, meanwhile, accounted for just 18 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce, 36 percent of the computing workforce, and 24 percent of the engineering workforce.

Two years after that dismal report, the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) is hoping to move the needle on those statistics.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded BUSM a two-year, $300,000 grant for a pilot program called Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training—Beginning Enhancement Track (BEST BET). The program aims to expose undergraduate students from populations that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM to career opportunities they may never have considered, while educating them about fields ranging from biotechnology to science communications. The idea is to reach students early, so that they may approach their undergraduate studies with new focus, and potentially pursue higher level education.

“The critical contributions of a diverse and inclusive community are essential to progress in all STEM fields,” says principal investigator Linda Hyman in a statement. “By promoting diversity in education, we hope to engage undergraduate students at a point in their professional development that could enable participation in a wide range of workforce opportunities so as to advance the progress of science and national health.”

BUSM is one of 27 institutions that received NSF grants focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM. The money will allow the school to expand its career exploration, skills, and development resources, while creating a program that will teach undergraduate students about graduate-level opportunities at institutions including Boston University, Cornell, the University of North Carolina, and more.