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Broadening Participation in Materials Science through Institutional Integration of a Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program


We propose an innovative pathway to the PhD for substantially broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in materials science, linking multiple NSF-funded materials research programs (CREST and REU) at the partnering institutions. The nucleus of this I³ will be the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge program, with its strong track record of enabling students to earn a Master’s degree at Fisk as a stepping stone to the PhD program at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt and Fisk are joined in this I³ by Delaware State University (DSU). Our program’s path to the PhD emphasizes research engagement and deliberate mentorship by faculty at PhD-granting institutions to help students cross the aspirational and institutional transitions.

We will directly address all of the I³ program goals. In so doing, with the I³ funding requested here we will enable at least 2 underrepresented minority graduate students toward the PhD in Materials Science each year, representing ~20 times the national institutional average. Over the 5 years of requested I³ support, this represents 10 individuals supported by I³ funding who will complete, or be on the path toward completing, the PhD. By itself this is a substantial, tangible result of our innovation and integration and a vital contribution to the STEM workforce.

Arguably even more important for the long-term sustained impact and institutionalization of this program, and the eventual expansion of our Masters-to-PhD Bridge model into additional STEM disciplines, will be the foundation laid here for truly understanding how best to design the architecture of our model to ensure successful portability into new disciplinary and institutional contexts.

We will:
1. Expand the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program to include Materials Science. Key faculty have been identified as the “bridge builders” following the model of the existing program in physics. Leveraging significant institutional support already in place, we will expand and deepen the footprints of our NSF-funded CREST projects and enhance their sustainability.

2. Extend the Bridge Program in partnership with Delaware State University. The resulting Fisk-Vanderbilt-DSU Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program will permit students to transition from the MS at Fisk to the PhD at Vanderbilt, from the MS at Fisk to the PhD at DSU, or from the MS at DSU to the PhD at Vanderbilt. The result will be increased synergy and collaboration across our NSF-funded CREST and REU programs, reducing the artificial boundaries that can so often impede student mobility across educational junctures.

Broadening Participation in Materials Science through Institutional Integration of a Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program at Fisk, Delaware State, and Vanderbilt Universities brings together NSF/EHR awards from the IGERT and CREST programs, as well as other work, around the I³ integrative themes for broadening participation, critical educational junctures, and the integration of research and education.



Start: September 01, 2009
End: August 31, 2014

Project Members:


Vanderbilt University

Project Website:

Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program

Award Number: