NSF Funding Supports Diversity in Mathematics

For more than 15 years, Dagan Karp, professor of mathematics and associate dean for diversity, has been active with the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Thanks to a recent National Science Foundation (NSF) award, Karp and SACNAS will continue their work to diversify science leadership in the U.S. by enhancing the mathematical component of the SACNAS National Conference.

Karp is a co-principal investigator for the project “Enhancing the Mathematical Sciences Component of the 2017 SACNAS National Conference,” for which the NSF awarded $49,991. Among other things, the project will fund the travel, conference registration and accommodations for students and postdoctoral fellows to attend the 2017 SACNAS National Conference.

The success of undergraduate research programs for mathematics students has led to increasing interest in mathematics and statistics among underrepresented minority students. The result is an increased demand for opportunities for those students to attend and present at national conferences, something Karp will address with this project.

Karp plans to increase the number of underrepresented students going into mathematics PhD programs as well as to provide support to those already in graduate school and beyond. “It is critical that trainees currently involved in mathematical research be given the opportunity to present their findings at national and regional conferences,” Karp says. “That’s where they can establish contacts with other students and postdoctoral scholars, as well as with graduate program recruiters, faculty and professionals who will become part of their expanded network of mentors. It is through this network that the trainees will find future professional opportunities.”

As part of the project, the 2017 SACNAS conference will include several symposia led by mathematical sciences faculty members who have strong experience mentoring students. The conference will also host professional development sessions, one of which will focus on the benefits of undergraduate research programs for students and another which will focus on mathematics outside of academia.

Including this award, Karp has received more than $400,000 in NSF funding for diversity efforts while at Harvey Mudd. SACNAS is a leading organization working to broaden participation across STEM fields, and its annual conference is regularly the largest meeting of scientists from underrepresented groups in the U.S. NSF grants are the largest share of external support for faculty research at HMC.