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New collaborative program aims to prepare Native American students for careers in scientific computing – The NAU Review

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A groundbreaking new program from the NAU will put computers, cutting-edge science software, and scientists in classrooms primarily serving Native American students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 in an effort to create a path for historically underserved students to scientific computing.

Through a series of workshops at K-12 schools in the southwest, students will have the opportunity to learn QIIME 2, the world’s first microbiome research software, and apply the open source software to explore real world problems. In these workshops, students will work alongside experts, including other Native American researchers.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to increase Native American representation in the field of scientific computing,” said Greg Caporaso, professor of biological sciences and creator of QIIME 2. “By working to diversify this field, we can bring different perspectives, skills and creative ideas to scientific computation projects and create healthy and engaged software development communities, which enables open source developers to provide high quality, innovative software and educational resources that are useful to a wide variety of user communities.

Caporaso is a principal investigator of the project, with Jani Ingram, professor at the Regents in chemistry, and Naomi lee, assistant professor of chemistry at NAU, and Joslynn Lee, professor of chemistry at Fort Lewis College. It is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

These workshops, which join a host of other outreach programs and partnerships that NAU has with Native American communities, will put students at ease with the software and processes involved in this work and introduce them to the role of computers and computers. software in the study of microbes. In the context of a global pandemic, understanding microbes has never been more important.

“Besides being important to life on Earth and being present in the environment, microbes are also linked to health and disease,” said Joslynn Lee. “Blending microbial communities with scientific computer skills is an engaging and relevant learning experience.”

All of these elements together meet a primary goal of the collaboration: to raise awareness of career opportunities in scientific computing – a field in which Native Americans have historically been under-represented – and to provide students with pathways to these careers. At the end of each workshop, computers and associated software will remain in the schools, if necessary, so that students can continue to gain experience and provide future students with access to these resources as well.

Learn more about QIIME 2.

“The workshops will develop knowledge and awareness of QIIME 2 through an indigenous lens, including addressing the issues

Joslynn Lee and Naomi Lee with the 2019 CARE (Cultural and Academic Research Experience) Summer Cohort

they can see their communities every day, ”said Naomi Lee, a Native American researcher. “The workshops will also expose Indigenous youth to Indigenous researchers with expertise in various STEM fields and help students see themselves going to college and working in those fields. “

The project will also end with a workshop at the NAU to which students and professors from the original workshops will be invited, as well as current NAU students interested in scientific computing. Not only will this event provide additional learning and networking opportunities, but it will give high school students the opportunity to experience university life, get passionate about higher education and help them feel comfortable in the environment, thus contributing to their chances of success as university students. .

Only 0.5 percent of students in a STEM program nationwide are Indigenous, while 0.4 percent of STEM professionals identify as Indigenous. To combat this, Naomi Lee, Ingram, and Caporaso have all made recruiting and mentoring historically underserved students a priority in their work. Other departments of the NAU are also focused on recruiting and educating Native Americans; The Institute of Tribal Environmental Professionals has been leading STEM outreach activities in tribal schools for 23 years, and the Native American Cancer Prevention program, led by Ingram, works directly with indigenous people to address health disparities.

Nelson mansel, a program manager for ITEP, recognizes the importance of connecting Native American students with STEM projects that apply science to local concerns and issues.

“When our students see the immediate benefits of STEM projects for family and community, they are motivated to invest time and effort in learning and applying STEM tools,” he said.

Ingram, who is also the PI of the Native American Cancer Prevention Partnership, agreed. That is why programs like this must exist.

“I was thrilled to be a part of Greg’s proposal to expose our Native American students from an early age to the power of scientific computing,” she said. “Giving them a vision of their future will have a very significant impact on them and their communities. “

To learn more about the project, request a workshop at your school, or participate in teaching scientific computing workshops, send an email to greg.caporaso@nau.edu.


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