Bucknell receives Clare Booth Luce Award to assist women students in STEM

LEWISBURG — Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce according to 2016 National Science Foundation statistics. Bucknell University will try to provide greater support for women in those fields through a new $216,000 Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program Research Award.

The new grant will support up to 24 Bucknell undergraduate women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines, providing support for their summer research projects and professional development activities.

The benefits of undergraduate research have been identified through education literature as a best practice in stimulating interest in science education. Early introduction to research also has been shown to increase retention in STEM fields.

“Undergraduate research is one of the best high-impact activities we have. It shows students what it’s like to be a scientist or engineer and what their life could be like,” said Karen Castle, professor of chemistry and associate dean of faculty, who was a co-author on the grant proposal.

The new award will specifically support summer research, which provides students a more robust educational experience through full-time work in the lab with faculty mentors.

“A faculty relationship can persist and further develop during the summer, and it’s often a different kind of relationship than you can have during the academic year,” said Wendy Wright, a professor in mechanical and chemical engineering who also is a co-author of the grant proposal. “One of the goals is also to encourage these students to pursue graduate school as a viable path, and summer research experiences help stimulate that interest.”

CBL award recipients will be chosen on a competitive basis and will receive $5,000 per summer for 10 weeks of research. Bucknell will provide recipients on-campus summer housing and stipends for their faculty mentors.

To be eligible, a student must be a woman intending to complete an undergraduate degree in specific physical sciences or engineering disciplines. Additional information is available at https://www.bucknell.edu/lucescholars.

Bucknell ranks 13th nationally in the percentage of women earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering disciplines at 34.7 percent. The university’s numbers in certain engineering fields, physics and computer science are comparable to the national averages (approximately 20 percent). The University currently has approximately 250 undergraduate students doing on-campus summer research through programs such as the Bucknell Program for Undergraduate Research, McKenna environmental internships and various departmental programs.

“An important goal of the CBL Research Scholars Program is to improve the culture for all women engaged in undergraduate research at Bucknell, and ultimately, in the STEM workforce,” Castle said. “If we can do this in an intentional and visible way, it is our hope that we can continue to attract more women into STEM majors beyond the grant period.”