El Paso, TX, United States

University of Texas at El Paso

El Paso, TX, United States

The University of Texas at El Paso is a four-year state university, and is a component institution of the University of Texas System. The school was founded in 1914 as The Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, and a mineshaft survives on the mountainous desert campus. It became Texas Western College in 1949, and The University of Texas at El Paso in 1967.In fall 2014, enrollment was 23,079 . UTEP is the largest university in the U.S. with a majority Mexican-American student population .The El Paso, Texas, campus features a one-of-a-kind collection of buildings in the Bhutanese architectural style. The UTEP campus is located on hillsides overlooking the Rio Grande, with Juarez, Mexico, within easy view across the border.Another notable feature of UTEP is its athletic history. UTEP was the first college in any Southern state in the United States to integrate its intercollegiate sports programs. To this date it is the only school in Texas to bring home an NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, which it achieved in 1966. The movie Glory Road recounts this story. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 320.60K | Year: 2016

Authentic research experiences in research laboratories run by professors do a far better job of developing students research skills and improving student retention in science than traditional laboratory experiences associated with a course. This is particularly true with groups who traditionally have not entered science fields. Authentic research experiences provide motivation to learn the research skills and demonstrate rewards in solving research problems. CUREs (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences) have been created to provide all science students with a real research experience. However, little is known about the impacts of CUREs on student research skills and retention in science. The University of Northern Colorado has developed an introductory biology CURE based on Tigriopus californicus, a small marine organism, and initial results indicate the CURE increases students content knowledge and improves their motivation towards learning biology, both of which have been shown to increase retention. This project will expand the CURE to three different institutions: a Liberal Arts University; a large, Hispanic-Serving Research University; and a small, Womens Minority-Serving College. Using these diverse student populations, this project will determine if the CURE improves students content knowledge, research skills, motivation towards learning biology, and retention in biology.

Most research conducted on CURE student outcomes relies heavily on student self-reported learning gains, has been completed with self-selected student populations, and has not been conducted with student populations who are underrepresented in the STEM disciplines. The proposed project will enhance and expand current knowledge by adding to the existing CURE research including: (1) testing aspects of a recently developed CURE impacts model; (2) the exploration of CURE impacts on students experimental design skills, motivation, science identity, and persistence in science; and (3) the examination of the impacts of CUREs on diverse student groups, including minorities and first-generation students. This project will also greatly expand our understanding of Tigriopus californicus, about which very little is currently known despite its important place at the base of the marine food chain. Finally, this project will potentially broaden participation of underrepresented groups in the biological sciences.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 3.28M | Year: 2016

This project will establish a scholarship program through a consortium of two four-year institutions in Texas and California and two partner two-year colleges: the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), California State University-Stanislaus (CSU-S), El Paso Community College (EPCC), and Merced College (MC). The project will prepare low-income, academically talented students to enter the workforce in the high demand areas of computer science and cyber-security. S-STEM scholars will participate in co-curricular activities that actively engage them in professional development activities that support their trajectories through undergraduate studies, in particular from two-year colleges to four-year institutions, and onto advanced degrees. The project will build on the effective practices and strategies of the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), funded by NSF (CNS-1042341). As the lead institution of CAHSI, UTEP will coordinate the implementation in this project of activities based on CAHSIs proven practices that support student success. Such activities include: the Affinity Research model that focuses on student professional, communication, and research/workplace skills development; mentoring that provides access to resources, information, and guidance; and the CAHSI Summit that provides opportunities for students to network with industry representatives, participate in technical workshops, and prepare for interviews and internships. The project will have a dedicated website hosted by each participating four-year institution, and it will use social media to reach potential applicants. In addition, each four year institution will employ face-to-face recruitment activities that include an annual two-day event for a pool of potential applicants from area high schools, the university, and partnering two-year colleges. The event will include highly interactive activities to build interest in computing degrees and discuss career pathways, including jobs in industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The activities will also stress the importance of advanced education.

The project will investigate the effectiveness of integrated evidence-based practices with the targeted student population and will contribute to the existing knowledge base with new understandings regarding factors that lead to the recruitment, retention, and degree attainment of the target population of students in computing. In particular, it will identify to what extent students pursue cyber-security as an area of expertise and which activities are particularly compelling for students. The research will utilize a sociocultural, situated learning lens to examine how S-STEM scholars develop and expand communities of computing practice. Research methods include the following: participant observation, semi-structured individual and group interviews, document analysis (including institutional research data analysis), and survey methods. Analysis will involve inductive and deductive coding practices, constant comparative analysis, and statistical analysis of differences in student outcomes (e.g., transfer rate, GPA, intentions for graduate school). The research study will inform the education research and CS communities about the specific elements that are needed to create inclusive learning environments in computing, while also building a much-needed foundation of knowledge on factors that facilitate the adoption and sustainability of evidence-based reforms that serve low income, highly qualified students in computing.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 1.39M | Year: 2016

This proposal will inaugurate a CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service (SFS) program at the University of Texas at El Paso. The UTEP SFS Scholars program will fund highly qualified students in the Software Engineering of Secure Cyber-Systems program. They will graduate with the ability to apply disciplined software development principles and processes that focus on the specification of measurable attributes emphasizing safety and security, design of solutions that address such attributes, and verification and validation throughout the software lifecycle. SFS Scholars will complete a curriculum that is based on a nationally-recognized set of recommendations for building secure software systems, participate in an internship to utilize and enhance their cyber-security knowledge, and transfer knowledge gained from coursework into practice through hands-on activities that bring real-world experiences into the classroom and a practicum project with significant cyber-security components. In addition to providing a well-designed plan of study, the proposed program includes structured student mentoring following the nationally recognized Affinity Group model that develops students? professional, technical, and communication skills. The recruitment plan includes national, regional, and local outreach efforts to attract applicants, and a selection process that ensures recommendations of students highly qualified for the program. The effort includes formative and summative evaluation, a well-defined continuous quality improvement plan to assess how well the curriculum and student co-curricular activities prepare graduates for productive careers, and an Advisory Board that recommends program improvements based on data.

The recruitment plan includes strategic involvement with Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS); Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities and the Computing Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI). The recruitment strategies aim for a cohort that is 40% female and 85% underrepresented minorities. The recruitment, retention, and student development efforts will impact students beyond those who are funded. The promotion of the experiences and successes of SFS scholars is expected to attract more students who seek education and training in secure cyber-systems. The educational and training materials developed through the program will be published and disseminated to CAHSI institutions and beyond via the CAHSI Summit and social media.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 429.74K | Year: 2016

An award is made to The University of Texas at El Paso to acquire a Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorter (FACS), a shared instrument to facilitate education and research in the region. The FACS instrument will support a diverse range of research and teaching applications across multiple disciplines in the natural sciences. The FACS instrument will be used to identify, isolate and purify multiple cell types and cell components. These FACS-purified samples will further the research programs of at least 23 faculty that seek to understand plant and animal development, microbial infectivity, environmental microbial metabolism as well as the mechanisms behind immune and cancer cell function and development, mechanisms of disease progression, ecological communities, and subcellular components ultimately benefiting our region and the public in general.

This instrument will provide access to state-of-the-art FACS instrumentation to the next generation of scientists through incorporation into science curriculum and new course development. Experiments using FACS will be employed in undergraduate teaching laboratories, bringing this advanced technology to ~400 students annually in the fields of cell biology, microbiology and molecular genetics. FACS techniques will also be introduced to graduate students for incorporation into their research projects. Placement of the FACS instrument in the Cytometry, Screening and Imaging Core Facility will facilitate management of use by multiple faculty and students. Cell sorting capabilities will facilitate recruitment, cancer development retention, collaboration, and training of both students and research faculty in the STEM disciplines and introduce this sophisticated technology to the region.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PERCEPTION, ACTION & COGNITION | Award Amount: 300.00K | Year: 2016

When children learn their first language, and when adults learn a new language, they are able to understand many words before they begin to use them. In other words, comprehension precedes production. The present research investigates the cognitive processes used for language comprehension and production and whether they are sensitive to a persons prior experience with the language or with particular words. The investigators will also explore whether the way adults learn words presented on their own (as often occurs in language classes) generalizes to everyday language experience (i.e., reading prose, listening to natural speech, and producing natural speech). The research will allow the investigators to determine the cognitive processes that overlap for reading, listening to speech, and producing speech and to assess the durability of memory after these different language experiences. The research activities will increase diversity in research training and participation by including research assistants and research participants from ethnic minority groups in a region with low education and income levels. The research may also have educational implications for vocabulary development of second language learners, both in terms of study techniques for students and teaching practices for educators.

This project links implicit memory, lexical access, and vocabulary development in controlled experiments with English speakers and Spanish-English bilingual speakers. Word comprehension and production processes are typically investigated separately. In contrast, the present study explores the impact of comprehension exposures on later production, using a repetition-priming procedure. The first overarching goal is to reveal the nature and durability of memory traces left by auditory and visual comprehension exposures to words as indexed by their impact on later spoken production. Second, the project aims to determine whether patterns of learning elicited by isolated words also result from words seen or heard in sentence contexts. Third, the research addresses fundamental questions about lexical processing that have been debated in the literature, for example, whether comprehension and production processes involve access to common phonological word-form representations, whether comprehension and production involve access to both modality-general and modality-specific representations, and what stages of word production are impacted by experiential variables such as word frequency and language proficiency. More generally, the research is expected to inform models of word production and implicit memory.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 440.96K | Year: 2016

Engineering and computing education remains a critical ingredient for US competitiveness, workforce development, and technological supremacy now and into the future. Understanding the ways in which students succeed and fail in STEM majors, and developing powerful ways to support them, will pay dividends for our students, our institutions, and our nation. This project is completing the first national, comprehensive study of the role of non-cognitive and affective (NCA) factors, including personality, grit, identity, and many others, in student academic performance in undergraduate engineering curricula. Understanding the role of NCA factors allows the project to continue developing appropriate on-campus resources for students in need of academic or personal support. This project is demonstrating how NCA factors can indicate the kinds of support resources with highest potential to help students in need, thus enabling their continued academic success.

This project uses a mixed-methods design to explore the role of NCA factors in undergraduate engineering student academic success. Across the three partner institutions, which present diverse student bodies in multiple settings, survey, interview, and intervention data is being collected and correlated to academic performance as measured by course grades using a variety of statistical techniques including regression and topological data analysis. The project has important intellectual merit because it is the first project to systematically examine student academic performance in the face of specific obstacles as mediated by their NCA profile and cognitive makeup. It demonstrates broader impact by operationalizing the sameintervention in multiple settings, and recognizing the role of local context in the implementation and outcomes. The role of both traditionally-defined and latent diversity in answering the research questions holds important implications for the research and practitioner communities alike.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PFE\RED - Professional Formati | Award Amount: 1.92M | Year: 2016

In order to thrive and even survive in the globalized marketplace of ideas and innovation, the U.S. must aggressively meet the challenge of increasing the number of students who complete degrees in computing areas. It is critical for our economic and social health, as well as national security, to maintain a globally competitive computing workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations (12% from 2014 to 2024). In order to keep our nation on the cutting edge of technology, we must retain more domestic students in computing programs. A 2012 report on undergraduate STEM education from the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) cites uninspiring introductory courses and an unwelcoming atmosphere from faculty as major factors contributing to attrition. The project at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) aims to address the PCAST findings by re-imagining what it means to learn, whose knowledge counts, and what counts as knowledge in the context of Computer Science (CS). The UTEP model transforms faculty into change agents and fosters the development of positive student identities early in the curriculum to impact students trajectories in CS and beyond. As important, the acquired skills and knowledge from the proposed effort are expected to transfer to other subjects in students studies, decrease students time to degree, and strengthen their preparedness for entry into the computing workforce. Further, the development of inclusive environments with members who value multiple and diverse experiences and perspectives is needed to address global challenges and opportunities.

The overarching goal of the project is to cultivate socially conscious connectedness among students, faculty, and industry. This will be accomplished by expanding a curriculum centered on heightened social interaction driven by an understanding and appreciation for the cultural contributions of diverse students to CS in a globalized world. The project objectives are to (1) transform the CS curriculum (i.e., content, pedagogical principles, social interaction, and faculty beliefs) to one that builds students identities as computer scientists and considers societal and global contexts in problem solving; and (2) develop a climate of connectedness through a shared sense of purpose among faculty focused on establishing cultural competence and inclusive environments. The outcome will be twofold: (i) a program of study that motivates, connects, and immerses students from diverse backgrounds in the profession throughout their plan of study; and (ii) faculty with deep cultural competence who use professional practice-based learning to foster systemic change. The resulting model transforms CS teaching and learning through deep change to curriculum grounded in social consciousness, cultural competency, and practice informed by the departments unique expertise and experiences as a Hispanic-serving institution and leader of the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI). The theoretical underpinnings of the project are framed on theories of learning informed by situated cognition, derived from sociocultural theory. In order to generate new knowledge about a process-oriented approach to deep educational change in CS, the effort includes ethnographic research on the change process and the education process paying particular attention to diversity, inclusion and professional practice.

Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 224.47K | Year: 2017

This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I project will include a research program to prepare new materials for a novel sensor to detect when a water softener needs regeneration. The adoption of a low cost, accurate water hardness sensor can drive a substantial reduction in both the amount of salt released into municipal sewer systems and the amount of water used to rinse the resins. The patent-pending hardness sensor can replace more expensive and less effective components and approaches that are currently utilized by water softeners to initiate regeneration. This will enable penetration into markets which have been underserved due to environmental concerns about salt discharge. Manufacturers of softeners will benefit from the proposed hardness sensor, because it will modernize their regeneration controls while also improving water softening efficiency and environmental sustainability. Annual global water softener sales growth is around 8%. With a 15-20% market penetration, sensor sales could be around $90 million (water softener model). The proposed development of ion-exchange fibers is expected to have applications beyond hardness sensors. The same approach can be used to make anion-exchange fibers that can be employed for the detection of nitrate in devices similar to softeners to remove nitrate from drinking water. The intellectual merit of this project is the development of a new method for making ion-exchange fibers. The proposed work will build upon past research performed and will culminate in the development of commercially available cation-exchange fibers that can be used for hardness sensors and other applications. There is a substantial benefit of using the cation-exchange material of the hardness sensor. The sensor detects the electrical resistance of the entire mass of the cation exchange material between the electrodes. Earlier experiments indicate that cation-exchange fibers offer superior performance compared to membranes, but no commercially available fibers exist. After reliable fibers have been produced, they will be installed in hardness sensors to be evaluated using small column testing equipment at The University of Texas at El Paso, as well as in water softeners outside of the university to validate the salt and water savings potential. The proposed research will include not only sensor development, but also the measurement and control needed to automatically sense hardness and control regeneration in both a water softener resin bed and for the sensor itself.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC SYSTEM SCIENCE PROGRAM | Award Amount: 621.49K | Year: 2016

Small mammals graze on the vegetation of the Arctic tundra. Although this grazing may influence many aspects of tundra ecosystems, current models do not include grazing by small mammals. In this project, the abundance of voles and lemmings will be varied experimentally using fenced plots. The investigators will observe the responses in the plots, especially focusing on changes in the cycling of carbon and nitrogen. To understand how the current climate controls the importance of grazing by small mammals, the investigators will conduct their studies at three sites in Alaska located in the Seward Peninsula, the foothills of the Brooks Range, and on the Arctic coastal plain. The natural abundance of voles and lemmings will be studied at these sites to provide background for applying the experimental results throughout the Arctic. The results will be used to expand a mathematical model of tundra ecosystems to include grazing by small mammals, which will improve the predictions that can be made about how the Arctic may change in the future. The research will involve a number of undergraduate students and investigators will integrate their research into classes and other educational programs. In addition, they will present a radio program in Barrow, AK.

The investigators will investigate the importance of herbivory by small mammals in controlling the cycling of carbon and nutrients in the rapidly changing Arctic tundra. Through studies at three sites along a latitudinal gradient, the investigators will employ both observations and experiments to quantify the role of grazing by rodents (voles and lemmings) in the functioning of tundra ecosystems. The observations of rodent population dynamics along with ecosystem function will provide key new information relevant to understanding the feedbacks of the Arctic tundra to the global climate. The manipulation of rodent density through exclosures and enclosures will show how potential changes in rodent populations may influence the tundra ecosystem response. In corporation of the observational and experimental results into a quantitative ecosystem model will enhance predictions of future changes and feedbacks with climate.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 999.61K | Year: 2016

This National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) project at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) will provide scholarships for low-income, talented students with demonstrated financial need pursuing bachelors degrees in science and mathematics. The Achieve Career Success in Science through Excellence (ACSScellence) program will provide scholarships for low-income undergraduate students and engage them in a program designed for the type of challenges low-income students will face while in college and after attaining their degree. Participants will be students who are enrolling as freshmen in UTEP or who are transferring. The program will improve student success and persistence to degree completion and will prepare scholars to become innovative STEM professionals. In addition to financial support, the program implements a multi-level mentoring system that includes internal and external mentors and student engagement in multiple curricular and co-curricular activities. Scholarships and support for academically strong students, who may not otherwise be able to afford college, will help to produce a well-trained workforce that will contribute to the economic vitality of the Texas and the nation.

The project will include a study of the impact that specific program activities will have on student success. The unique demographics of UTEPs undergraduate student population (82.5% Hispanic) offers an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions on low-income minorities currently underrepresented in STEM, and thus contribute to the design of effective strategies to narrow the underrepresentation gap. Student support activities include faculty mentoring and monthly mentoring meetings with STEM professionals external to the institution. Students will be enrolled in research-intensive courses and in a course to foster innovative thinking. Career development support includes participation in professional skills development workshops, external internships, and engagement in a research project through a capstone course. These activities will help the low-income students to successfully complete a STEM degree in a timely manner while developing the professional competencies and mindset required for successful careers in the 21st century science and technology workforce. The findings from the program will be disseminated widely to the STEM education community and help to increase understanding of the attributes and practices of successful student scholarship and support programs.

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