NSF Research Traineeship awards aim to transform approaches to STEM graduate education

The National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program recently awarded 17 projects, totaling $51 million, to develop and implement graduate education traineeship models in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The awards will help train the next generation of scientific leaders to develop the skills necessary to tackle complex societal problems.

South Dakota State University Professor Brian Logue is part of a group whose project, Cyber-Physical-Social System for Understanding and Thwarting the Illicit Economy, received an award. Logue, who is in the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Biology and Microbiology, is working with Jon Kellar, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Ashley Podhradsky, Dakota State University, and Paul May, University of South Dakota, on the project.

"Innovative approaches are vital to transforming STEM graduate education," said Jim Lewis, acting assistant director for NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate. "By supporting approaches that utilize evidence-based learning practices, immersing students in interdisciplinary research and providing students with opportunities to develop career-aligned skillsets, NRT projects are helping change the landscape of graduate education and better prepare future STEM scientists for diverse careers."

The NRT program aligns with NSF’s 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments: 10, bold process ideas that identify areas for future NSF investment at the frontiers of science and engineering. Three NRT awards target Big Ideas research focused on Harnessing the Data Revolution, and three awards focus on the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier.

The awards also cover other areas of national importance. Seven funded projects focus on Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems. Notably, broadening participation strategies for six of the awardees utilize links with NSF INCLUDES projects.

Additionally, the awards promote convergent research by addressing complex challenges facing society that require expertise and perspectives from multiple disciplines and stakeholders. NRT projects train students to work in these convergent spaces. Examples of specific areas of research include: integrating technology and computational approaches at the nexus of food, energy and water systems; building stakeholder-engaged natural resources management approaches; increasing the resiliency of rural areas and agricultural systems; designing user-centered, smart engineering solutions; and fostering discovery and innovation in cyber-physical systems.

Titles, principal investigators and institutions for the new NRT awards are:

  • NeuroTech - Bringing Technology to Neuroscience: Eduardo Chichilnisky, Stanford University;
  • Enhancing Conservation Science and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Program: Sandra De Urioste- Stone, University of Maine;
  • Preparing Future Leaders: Rural Resource Resiliency (R3): Melanie Derby, Kansas State University;
  • NRT-INFEWS: Agricultural Biotechnology in Our Evolving Food, Energy & Water Systems (AgBioFEWS): Fred Gould, North Carolina State University;
  • Technology-Human Integrated Knowledge Education and Research (THINKER): Laine Mears, Clemson University;
  • A Team-based Training Paradigm Integrating Informatics and Ecology: Kiona Ogle, Northern Arizona University;
  • Citizen-Centered Smart Cities and Smart Living: Sethuraman Panchanathan, Arizona State University;
  • The DataFEWSion Traineeship Program for Innovations at the Nexus of Food Production, Renewable Energy and Water Quality: Sarah Ryan, Iowa State University;
  • UMD Global STEWARDS (STEM Training at the Nexus of Energy, WAter Reuse and FooD Systems): Amy Sapkota, University of Maryland, College Park;
  • Interdisciplinary Training, Education and Research for Food-Energy-Water Systems (InTERFEWS) in Semi-Arid Regions: Sybil Sharvelle, Colorado State University;
  • Intersecting Computational and Data Science to Address Grand Challenges in Plant Biology: Shin- Han Shiu, Michigan State University;
  • A Bioelectronics Incubator for Training Students (BITS) at the Cell/Material Interface: Jonathan Silberg, William Marsh Rice University;
  • Landscape-U, Impactful Partnerships among Graduate Students and Managers for Regenerative Landscape Design: Erica Smithwick, Pennsylvania State University, University Park;
  • A Graduate Traineeship in Cyber Physical Systems: John Stankovic, University of Virginia;
  • Modeling and Understanding Human Behavior: Harnessing Data from Genes to Social Networks: Wei Wang, University of California Los Angeles;
  • Graduate Student Education: Reducing Energy Barriers for Novel Wa


About South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from seven different colleges representing more than 200 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 36 master’s degree programs, 15 Ph.D. and two professional programs.

The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.