LaShanda Korley, assistant professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve University, has received one of the first Broadening Participation Research Initiation Grants in Engineering (BRIGE) from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Korley received her BRIGE grant out of more than 120 applications in the program's first year. The two-year grant is for $175,000. Targeting investigators early in their careers, the BRIGE program is designed broaden opportunities for all engineers including those from groups underrepresented in engineering fields. The program's goal is to encourage active engagement in research as independent investigators.
Korley's research focuses on the toughening of elastomeric materials, particularly through the modification of the elastic response of the materials' network under deformation. Her goal is to contribute to global efforts to design lightweight, functional materials with enhanced toughness properties for the advancement of sensors, protective systems and other uses.
In addition to funding Korley's own research, the BRIGE grant also provides funding for her proposed outreach program for promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities to Cleveland-area 7th, 8th and 9th grade students. Korley's grant proposal calls for a one-day workshop entitled, The Many Faces of STEM, to expose 7th and 8th graders to a variety of STEM professionals of varying racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, not only promoting the various disciplines but also providing role models for the students.
A proposed ongoing Saturday workshop program will focus on preparatory training for 8th graders interested in STEM fields and hands-on, theme-based projects for 9th graders. Korley's programs will be supported by the schools of engineering and arts and sciences at Case Western Reserve and will partner with Center for Layered Polymeric Systems within the macromolecular science and engineering department at the university.
In addition to the BRIGE grant, Korley recently received an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund grant for $50,000 for her research efforts.
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