By Sharon Cutler Ross
The NSF has announced a new program to complement the VIGRE (Vertical Integration of Research and Education) initiative that is already underway. VIGRE will become part of a three-pronged effort to increase the number of U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents who are well prepared and pursue careers in the mathematical sciences. The new program, Enhancing the Mathematical Sciences in the 21st Century (EMSW21), is comprised of VIGRE, Research Training Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (RTG), and Mentoring through Critical Transition Points in the Mathematical Sciences (MCTP). A broad stroke description of each component follows. A complete description may be found at the NSF website. All three components have the same proposal deadline: 16 September 2003.
VIGRE projects must be designed to promote interaction among undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and faculty members in a department (or departments). A team approach based on broad support by faculty should integrate research and education for graduate students and involve undergraduates in learning by discovery. A new feature of the revised VIGRE program is the possibility of support for international research and education activities. All VIGRE proposals are required to include an extensive curriculum review supported by five years of data.
Goals for graduate students in a VIGRE project include significant teaching experience, involvement with research activities involving the full range of participants, broad and deep graduate education, and the development of strong communication skills. In contrast to traditional graduate support, VIGRE participants should have significant time for course work, research, and other activities as well as at least one year of supervised teaching.
Undergraduates in a VIGRE project will gain research experience through activities such as faculty-directed projects, internships, or participation in interdisciplinary research. Mentoring of these students should aim to stimulate further interest in the mathematical sciences and to develop enhanced mathematical communication skills.
A VIGRE project is intended to offer postdoctoral associates opportunities outside the usual mathematical sciences education and training through interdisciplinary research experiences, external internships, and participation in research institute programs. A critical element is mentoring as it is for the undergraduate and graduate students. For the postdoctoral associates, mentors should help develop successful researchers, communicators, and mentors.
The NSF anticipates making up to seven VIGRE awards based on a budget of $10,000,000. Grants will be $400,000 to $1,000,000 per year for three years with the possibility of an extension for two more years. A VIGRE proposal should describe a five-year plan.
A Research Training Group will be a group of researchers focused on a major research theme. Members may come from different departments or institutions, but the research and education activities must be based in the mathematical sciences and in a mathematical sciences department. Support requests for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral investigators, and visitors may be included in a RTG proposal. A significant collective mentoring component is required to help ensure that all participants benefit from new or enhanced research-based training and education. Funding of $4,000,000 will support up to nine RTG awards. A program may receive up to $500,000 per year for one to five years.
The Mentoring through Critical Transition Points program solicits proposals that deal with any of the following or similar career transitions: from undergraduate to graduate school; from course work to original research; from graduate school to a postdoctoral appointment, to a teaching position at an undergraduate institution, or to a position in industry. Proposers should describe plans for addressing the issues related to a specific transition point or set of points, for the recruitment of participants with particular attention to those from underrepresented groups, and for careful mentoring of the participants. The NSF hopes to make awards of up to $500,000 per year for one to five years to fund six MCTP projects.