The Workshop on Ethnic Diversity in Materials Science & Engineering

Statistics clearly show that academic participation in and employment of ethnic and racial minorities in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and related disciplines is very low. In recognition of this reality, to explore causative factors, and to begin to develop mitigating strategies, Dr. Justin Schwartz, NCSU Materials Science and Engineering Department Head, chaired on behalf of the University Materials Council The Workshop on Ethnic Diversity in Materials Science and Engineering. The workshop was held in Arlington, Virginia, on December 9-11, 2012, with funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DoE), the Materials Research Society (MRS) Foundation, and the University Materials Council.

The workshop focused on issues that affect ethnic minority recruitment, retention, and long-term success in MSE, from the undergraduate level and preparation for graduate school, through graduate school, and beyond to success in the workforce – in academia and in national laboratories. The workshop brought together a wide array of participants: influential administrators of MSE departments at universities and national laboratories; deans of a number of engineering colleges; political leaders; social scientists; and members of the community with the knowledge to comment on the key issues; NSF and DoE program managers; and minority scientists at various stages of their careers.

Discussion topics included: Unconscious Bias & Climate Issues; Issues Faced by Female Minorities; The Role and Needs of Minority Serving Institutions; Increasing Minority Presence within Academia through Continuous Training (IMPACT); Retention, Mentoring, and Success (focused on the key element of climate at the department level); Recruitment of Minority Students and Faculty; Perspectives of Graduate Students and Young Faculty; and a discussion of the results of a graduate student survey.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson the first African American and first female Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, delivered the keynote address. Congresswoman Johnson is a long-term champion for increasing the ranks of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math.

The workshop, while a clear success, is just the beginning. The long-range goal is to create over time an ever-increasing number of minority role models in science fields who will, in turn, draw others in to contribute to the workforce of the future. The most immediate action item is for the workshop organizing committee and attendees to generate a final report with actionable items for all stakeholders.