Reform in Graduate Education: IGERT and GK-12
Since 1997 the NSF has supported a training program called the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) (www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/igert/intro.jsp) whose goal is to equip U.S. science and engineering graduate students with in-depth knowledge in a disciplinary field while learning the skills needed to work as part of an interdisciplinary team. Their training involves courses and other activities that will provide them with a working knowledge of science, business, technical, social, ethical, and policy issues. They have the opportunity to pursue their research with internships in industry, government labs, foreign institutions, or other academic sites where they can engage in collaborative activities. Awards are made on a competitive basis to institutions that propose an interdisciplinary research project involving a diverse group of faculty members and students crossing disciplinary, departmental, or even institutional boundaries. The awards are made as five-year grants to academic institutions. The project must include strategies for recruitment, mentoring, and retention of members of groups underrepresented in science and engineering.
Another NSF program, Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) (www.nsfgk12.org), provides funding to graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to acquire additional skills that will broadly prepare them for professional and scientific careers in the 21st century. NSF developed the GK-12 program in recognition that STEM graduate students, in addition to being competent researchers, must be able to communicate science and research to a variety of audiences. As the GK-12 Fellows bring their research and practice into the K-12 classroom, they gain skills in explaining science to people of all ages. By working in K-12 formal and informal learning environments, the Fellows not only stimulate interest in science and engineering among students and teachers, but also apply interdisciplinary thinking and demonstrate the close connection between education and research. Since its inception in 1999, the GK-12 program has funded over 200 projects in more than 140 different universities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.