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Collaborative Research: GP-UP: Developing STEM Identity by Engaging URM Undergraduate Students in Research on Air Pollution in Chicago Communities

Abstract: The geoscience learning community will help students from historically excluded communities build their STEM identity through authentic research experience, mentoring, and introduction to geosciences careers. Students will learn about air pollution, gain experience with instrumentation, practice computer programing and data analysis, and communicate scientific results by participating in real research with prosocial impact. This project addresses three GEOPAths Program goals: (1) increase the number and diversity of students in geosciences; 2) prepare students for geoscience careers; and 3) contribute to the evidence base for effective student engagement, learning, and retention in STEM. The data collected through this project will be of sufficient quality to contribute to community discussions about how best to reduce air pollution and better protect public health, particularly within vulnerable communities.

This project seeks to employ several established evidence-based strategies for the success of students from historically excluded communities. A focus on student success in STEM will include authentic collaborative undergraduate research experiences, sustained mentorship, and engagement in research with a direct link to community benefit. By combining authentic prosocial research and mentoring, the PIs aim to build a sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and STEM identity in two cohorts of students and help with their successful transitions to STEM programs related to the earth sciences. This project specifically proposes to create geoscience learning community that engages undergraduate students from historically excluded communities in research to measure and attribute air pollution in two Chicago neighborhoods that differ in socioeconomic status, demographics, and proximity to industrial facilities. The PIs will recruit a cohort of undergraduate participants at Loyola to join a research-intensive learning community each of Year 1 and Year 2 of the project. Student participants will work closely with scientists and the community-based organizations to design and carry out research that addresses community concerns about air pollution. The Project’s aims are to 1) provide an applied, socially relevant research experience for student participants; 2) understand how particulate pollution in Chicago varies over space and time; and 3) provide air quality data for community use.

Status: Current

PI: Emily Fischer

Source of Funding: NSF

Funding Program: ICER

Award Amount: 141394

Start Date: 08/01/2021

End Date: 07/31/2024

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