?The University of Puerto Rico (Rio Piedras) Bridge-to-the-Doctorate Initiative: Feeding the Pipeline in STEM Disciplines at the PhD Level? will enable the seamless transition of underrepresented students from the STEM baccalaureate to graduate studies in order to obtain a doctoral degree and enter the STEM workforce. This will be the 8th cohort of students participating in the Puerto Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation?s Bridge-to the-Doctorate (BD) Activity since 2003. The award supports twelve STEM graduate students during the 2010-2012 academic years, increasing to 94 the total number of BD fellows supported by this alliance since the start of the NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Activity.

Building on the strengths developed by the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in the fields of nanoscience and environmental sciences, priority will be given to STEM students who will do research in these interdisciplinary fields. To be eligible for the program, students must be admitted to one of the following UPR PhD programs: Biology, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, or Chemical Physics.

BD fellows will participate in the BD Support Program that was successfully implemented with the seven previous cohorts in order to enhance their academic preparation, and will be encouraged to complete a summer research internship at national and international strategic partner research centers of PR EPSCoR and the Institute of Tropical Ecology (ITES). The UPR BD Initiative will continue to coordinate its activities with other NSF-funded projects that are managed by the Resource Center for Science and Engineering (RCSE) and by pertinent UPR graduate programs.

Students will make explicit connections with the ongoing GK-12 program: ?From Hectares to Nanometers: Multidisciplinary Explorations of Functional Nanosciences and Tropical Ecosystems?, managed by the RCSE. After completing their first two years in the BD program, BD fellows will be able to apply for fellowships in the following RCSE/UPR programs: GK-12, NSF-EPSCoR IFN, NASA EPSCoR, NASA Space Grant, DoE EPSCoR, CREST-CATEC, and RISE. This large array of research and educational programs will benefit from the recruited BD fellows while they facilitate completion of their doctoral degree. A tracking system, designed by PR-LSAMP, will document participant progress, including completion of degree until they enter the workforce, and beyond.

The implementation of the UPR BD Activity will help: 1) to develop a highly competitive STEM education and research enterprise required to advance Puerto Rico?s economic development, and 2) to meet the national need for diverse STEM professionals. By increasing the number of STEM professionals, more college students, in particular those at 4-year colleges, where the largest population of first-generation college students reside, will be taught by PhD level professors/researchers. Moreover, the ex-BD fellows will become role models for other students from underrepresented groups across the Nation, who will become interested in pursuing STEM careers.

Project Report

The Bridge-to-the-Doctorate Program, designed by PR-LSAMP and successfully implemented during the past nine years, includes activities and/or components that promote the development of research, networking, mentoring, pedagogical and communication skills of first and second year graduate students. The major accomplishments of the program are: An eighth cohort of twelve BDP Fellows began graduate studies in August 2010, for a total of 94 BDP fellowships awarded by PR-LSAMP under this initiative. Eight (8) of the twelve fellows have a GPA of 3.5 or higher; 3of these have a GPA of 4.0. All active fellows approved their graduate courses with an average of 17 credits per student per academic year. Eight of the twelve fellows traveled to present their work at five major scientific meetings and the four has research experiences in National and International settings. Fellows have benefited from sixteen workshops, and fifty two scientific conferences. All fellows participated as leaders and presenters in the NanoDays activities as part of the outreach component of the BD and the IFN Program. Each fellow served as a mentor for one undergraduate student conducting research under the PR-LSAMP undergraduate research program. All fellows visited at least one school to serve as role models for secondary school students during the Role Model and Outreach activities. At the end of the reporting period fellows will have offered 20 visits to participating schools, seven of them are at NSF-GK12 NSF Funded Program. All fellows presented their research work in the Puerto Rico Interdisciplinary Scientific Meeting (PRISM). The PR-LSAMP program has made a significant contribution to the NSF goal of a diversified STEM workforce. It has increased the number of STEM PhD granted to Hispanics from PR-LSAMP Institutions in Natural Sciences from 302 for cohort 2000-05 to 413 for cohort 2004-09, a 37% increase; and the number of STEM PhD granted to Hispanic in Engineering from PR-LSAMP Institutions from 71 for cohort 2000-05 to 119 for cohort 2004-09, a 68% increase (NORC data). The University of Puerto Rico awarded a total of 44 PhD degrees in STEM fields in academic year 2010-11 for a total of 607 from 1990 to 2011.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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A. Hicks
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University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras
San Juan
United States
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