NIH ESTEEMED Grant to Enhance Diversity and Elevate Undergraduate Research in Bioengineering

Shikha Nangia

After a two-year process spearheaded by biomedical and chemical engineering Professor Shikha Nangia, the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) bioengineering program has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Educational Diversity (ESTEEMED) Learning and Discovery through Engineering Research at Syracuse (LEADERS) grant. 

The grant will help fund a program to recruit and train undergraduates from diverse racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

“It’s about enriching diversity in our undergraduate student population,” said Nangia. “This is a carefully designed program to mentor students while improving diversity in our bioengineering program.”

ESTEEMED funding will enable students to be trained in research beginning in their first year and be paid for that research. The program is distinctly designed to consider what students may need from the start. It will include a six-week summer bridge program to help students transition from high school to their first year in college. The students will be supported for research in their second year and transition into the university’s Honors program. The long-term vision is to have a lasting impact by increasing diversity in graduate programs and eventually in bioengineering-related professions.

“This is close to my heart. We want to reach out to students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, meet them where they are, and nurture their talent through a deliberate and focused approach,” said Nangia. 

Nangia says she is grateful to co-investigator and chair of the department of biomedical and chemical engineering, Julie Hasenwinkel, and director of the honors program, Danielle Smith, for working on developing the LEADERS program. Nangia also is grateful for the support of ECS leadership. 

“I want to thank Dean Smith and associate dean for research and graduate programs Dacheng Ren for their support to this program in making our proposal competitive for NIH funding,” said Nangia. 

“When Shikha approached me about this opportunity I was inspired by her passion and vision for the ESTEEMED LEADERS program. I have seen the power of cohort-based programs that focus on mentorship and student success from previous work that I did as associate dean in ECS,” said Hasenwinkel. “I’m very excited to leverage that experience and to work with Shikha and Danielle on this project that is aimed at enhancing the diversity, inclusion, and success of undergraduate students in bioengineering.”