NSF Grant to Help New Generation of Students

A new scholarship program at Northeastern, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will provide support to local students interested in pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (sometimes called the STEM fields).

The five-year program, known as Investing in Tomorrow’s Engineering Leaders (ITEL), will launch in fall 2010, thanks to an NSF grant of nearly $574,500. Students from high schools in Boston, Cambridge, Medford and other local communities will be eligible to apply for the scholarship. Awardees will receive $40,000 toward their college degree in the form of four $10,000 annual scholarships.

A number of students from the program’s partner community colleges—including MassBay, Middlesex, Northern Essex, and Roxbury Community Colleges—will also be able to apply for the scholarship and enroll at Northeastern as transfer students. These students will be eligible for three $10,000 scholarships.

Although the program encourages study within the wide range of STEM fields, officials hope it will encourage young people to pursue leadership roles in engineering.

Northeastern’s ITEL scholars will have the chance to work with faculty and staff on research projects at the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, an NSF Engineering Research Center. The Gordon Center develops cutting-edge technologies to find hidden (subsurface) objects and solve real-world challenges, such as detecting breast cancer or assessing underground pollution.

The ITEL scholarships “will allow us to develop and support a group of academically talented students in need who are interested in STEM subjects,” says Abe Zeid, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and principal investigator on the grant. “They will experience the academic, research and industrial sides of their field of interest and emerge with the skills necessary to become a future leader in engineering.”

ITEL scholars will be able to take courses in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences, and will have access to mentoring and other support services provided by university faculty and staff. They will also participate in Northeastern’s co-op program, working six-month stints at a local, national or international company or organization, and gaining professional experience in their field of interest.

Robert Case, professor of mathematics; Claire Duggan, associate director of Northeastern’s Center for STEM Education; and Hameed Metghalchi, chair of mechanical and industrial engineering, will serve as co-principal investigators of the ITEL project. Rachelle Reisberg, director of the Women in Engineering program, and Richard Harris, director of Multicultural Engineering programs, are also involved with the project.  

The ITEL grant comes through NSF’s S-STEM (Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program, which helps higher-ed institutions offer support to academically talented, financially needy students who want to earn degrees in science or engineering disciplines.