Prof. Alex Rudolph receives 5-year $600,000 grant from NSF S-STEM program

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The new program is named "Cal-Bridge," with the mission to increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM), especially Hispanic, and women students completing a bachelor’s degree and entering a PhD program in astronomy, physics, or closely related fields. Students selected for the program will be designated “Cal-Bridge Scholars”. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), creates a diverse network of higher education institutions, including 5 UC campuses, 8 CSU campuses, and 7 community colleges all in southern California, dedicated to this goal.

Given the woeful lack of minority students entering the STEM disciplines in general, and physics and astronomy in particular, the Cal-Bridge program leverages an ideal set of institutions to address this national problem. The Cal-Bridge program combines multiple Hispanic-serving CSUs and community colleges, from which URM and women students with “untapped potential” are recruited, with five UC campuses, all in close proximity in southern California, an epicenter of explosive growth in the US Hispanic population. By identifying and mentoring such students through the critical transition from undergraduate STEM major to top-level PhD programs, Cal-Bridge will have a significant national impact on the number of URM, especially Hispanic, students obtaining a PhD in physics and astronomy, and become a model for Hispanic and minority-serving institutions nationwide, which hope to make a similar positive impact on this problem.

Prof. Rudolph explains that the Cal-Bridge mission is accomplished by providing financial support for individual students and intensive, sustained, joint mentoring of students by CSU and UC faculty, aimed at increasing the persistence of Cal-Bridge Scholars in completing their undergraduate degree, and successfully entering and completing a PhD program in astronomy, physics, or a closely related field. The Cal-Bridge program will search for students with “untapped potential”, using research-based criteria developed by successful bridge programs such as the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge program. The primary recruiting pipeline will be the highly successful CAMPARE summer research program. This latter, NSF-funded program---also lead by Prof. Rudolph---has in the past 4 years successfully provided authentic summer research experiences at world-class research institutions to a large number of URM and female students from a network of 19 CSUs and community colleges, mostly Hispanic-serving institutions, all of which are part of the Cal-Bridge program. Once selected, the Cal-Bridge Scholars will benefit in five key ways:

1. Cal-Bridge Scholars will be given full financial support throughout their time in the program. 

2. Each Cal-Bridge Scholar will be assigned two faculty mentors, one from a UC campus and one from a CSU.

3. Cal-Bridge Scholars must maintain at least B grades in all physics and astronomy courses; the opportunity will be provided and they will be strongly encouraged to take at least one upper division course at a UC campus.

4. Cal-Bridge Scholars will participate in supervised research with UC faculty during summers and academic years and will be given the opportunity to present their results at regional and national scientific conferences such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS) January meeting.

5. Cal-Bridge Scholars will be strongly encouraged to participate in extensive professional development via monthly workshops.

This combination of activities has been shown by research and practice to lead to substantially improved persistence of URM students in being accepted to and completing PhD programs. For example, the Fisk-Vanderbilt program has an 80% persistence to PhD rate, compared to 50% nationally, and is on pace to produce 10 times the national average of PhDs in astronomy and 5 times the national average in physics.

For more information and to apply, please visit http://physics.csupomona.edu/academic-programs/astronomy-program/research/calbridge-overview.