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Luce Foundation grant broadens research opportunities for women engineers

Nicolette Drescher ’15 (middle), a chemical engineering major and member of the Society of Women Engineers, serves as a project mentor in the engineering college’s CHOICES outreach camp for middle-school girls.

The P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science (RCEAS) has received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to offer women engineering majors further opportunities to conduct research.

The award through the foundation’s Clare Booth Luce Program provides two years of research funding for women undergraduates, including a 10-week summer fellowship, support for part-time work during the academic year, and an annual allowance for conference travel and lab fees.

In return, the Clare Boothe Luce Research Scholars will participate in the engineering college’s annual David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium and its weeklong summer CHOICES (Charting Horizons and Opportunities in Careers in Engineering and Science) camp, in which engineering faculty and students introduce middle-school girls to engineering.

S. David Wu, Iacocca Professor and dean of the engineering college, announced the receipt of the Henry Luce Foundation grant along with the establishment of the new Lehigh Engineering Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship, which is open to both men and women.

The two new programs, said Wu, will help the college increase research opportunities for undergraduate students while attracting more women to engineering.

A positive track record

About 28 percent of Lehigh’s undergraduate engineers are women, compared to a national average of 17 percent. Women account for 30 percent of the students on the dean’s list and 42 percent of the membership in the RCEAS’s Rossin Junior Fellows academic and leadership honors society.

“These two exciting programs will enhance our long-standing efforts to expand research opportunities for undergraduate students,” said Wu.

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., to promote international understanding as well as innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.

Clare Boothe Luce, Henry Luce’s wife, was a playwright, journalist, ambassador and member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut. The Clare Boothe Luce Program has become one of the most significant sources of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering since its establishment in 1989.

The RCEAS will begin accepting Clare Boothe Luce Scholars this summer. Students will conduct faculty-guided research projects for two years, starting the summer after their freshman or sophomore year.

In the Lehigh Engineering Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship program, the RCEAS dean’s office will provide matching summer research fellowships in support of student researchers in labs where a RCEAS faculty member is already supporting one or more such researchers with existing external grants or with competitively funded internal grants.

Students accepted into this program will also complete a 10-week summer internship and be expected to take part in the Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium.

The Clare Boothe Luce Research Scholars program is part of a larger effort by Lehigh to increase the ranks of women undertaking science and engineering careers. In 2012, Lehigh President Alice P. Gast announced a $1 million endowed scholarship fund to promote high-achieving, undergraduate women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

And in 2010, Lehigh was one of seven universities to receive a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation program to improve the recruitment, retention and advancement of women faculty in STEM fields.

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014

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