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Montgomery College Faculty Teams Win Three Grants from the National Science Foundation

Projects will broaden opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students in STEM

In a historic first for Montgomery College (MC), three different teams of faculty and administrators have won grant awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) totaling over $3.24 million. The grants include EmpowerED: Building the Future Workforce Together, part of the new Enabling Partnerships of Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) program; Beginnings: Democratizing Research and Experiential Education for Microelectronics (DREEM), part of the new Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT) program; and AUSEM: Achieving Upward Socio-Economic Mobility, part of the competitive Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program. Each project begins this month, and will expand opportunities for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

“These awards are truly transformational—they will provide Montgomery College students with scholarships, internships, research experiences, and mentorship, among other supports,” said Dr. Jermaine F. Williams, president of Montgomery College. “The National Science Foundation is helping our students to unlock their true potential and step on the pathway to meaningful careers. I am so proud of the MC faculty and staff who have so diligently sought to provide opportunity and equity for our students, particularly those traditionally underrepresented in STEM.”

MC’s EmpowerED award (NSF #2331558) will fund initiatives to strengthen ties between the MC biotechnology program and area and regional employers. The six institutions collaborating on EmpowerED will develop a curriculum focused on industry needs, provide professional development for faculty, and fully prepare students to enter the workforce. The collaborative is led by Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At MC, project activities include the expansion of industry relationships; establishment of an industry-focused mentoring program; development of a curriculum focused on industry-requested skills; enhanced faculty development through Bio-Trac; and development of a biotechnology theory certificate. Visit the NSF awards page for additional details.

Dr. James Sniezek, instructional dean of Chemical and Biological Sciences, is principal investigator. Drs. Collins Jones and Lori Kelman, professors of biotechnology, are co-principal investigators. MC’s award amount is $400K for the three-year project that began October 1.

The College’s DREEM award (NSF #2322700) is a collaborative effort with University of Maryland, College Park (lead) and College of Southern Maryland (CSM). The DREEM project will engage second-year electrical engineering students at MC in focused workshops to enhance practical design skills as well as a semester-long research project at UMD to develop laboratory skills.

Dr. Palmyra Catravas, professor of engineering, is principal investigator. Dr. Nawal Benmouna, interim instructional dean of Science, Engineering and Technology, and Dr. Lan Xiang, professor of engineering, are co-principal investigators. MC will receive $375K for the three-year project that began October 1. This is the first time that Montgomery College has had an all-woman team submit and lead a STEM project. View the NSF site for further details.

The Achieving Upward Socio-Economic Mobility (AUSEM) project (#2322299) is the fourth and largest S-STEM award ever made to MC. AUSEM will support 90 students in computer science, cybersecurity, engineering, and networking and wireless technologies. The project will provide scholarships for each student up to $12,000 per year, provide stipends for internships, and cover registrations for the COMPTIA+ certification. Students may qualify for up to two years of funding. This six-year, cohort-based project includes structured mentoring and coaching, as well as peer support and preparation for transfer to four-year institutions.

Both EPIIC EmpowerED and ExLENT DREEM are among the first programs funded through NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) that focuses on expanding critical and emerging technologies, addressing critical societal challenges, and expanding pathways to participation in STEM innovation.

Dean Benmouna is principal investigator for the $2.47M award. Co-principal investigators are Dr. Chiyun-Kwei (CK) Chiang, professor of network and cloud computing; Dr. Chienann Alex Hou, professor of engineering; Mr. David Vargas, professor of cybersecurity; and Dr. Xiang. Project activities begin October 15. Visit the NSF awards page for additional details.

Dr. Muhammad Kehnemouyi, the College’s interim vice president and provost of the Germantown Campus and the Collegewide STEM unit, noted, “the exceptional work of the teams leading our AUSEM, DREEM, and EmpowerED projects demonstrates Montgomery College’s commitment to transform the lives of our students.”