WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA has selected the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corp. of Falls Church, Va., to administer a $1 million career development and educational program designed to address the critical shortage of U.S. minority students in science and engineering fields.
The NASA Astrobiology Institute's (NAI) Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) program in Moffett Field, Calif., is providing the funding for the four-year effort. The program will provide opportunities for up to four faculty members and eight students from minority-serving institutions to partner with astrobiology investigators. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and the future of life on Earth and the potential for life elsewhere.
"Providing new education opportunities for minority students will both enrich lives and answer a critical need for proficiency in science and engineering," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "But just as importantly, the program is an investment to cultivate imaginative thinking about the field of astrobiology."
The United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corp. will use its extensive database of 14,000 registrants to develop an online community to provide webinars, virtual training and videoconferences, and provide outreach and recruitment for program participants. The program's objective is to engage more teachers from under-represented schools in astrobiology research and increase the number of students pursuing careers in astrobiology.
"Our nation's underserved populations are a tremendous resource on which we must draw, not just for science, but for everything we do," said Carl Pilcher, director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute. "We are extremely pleased that the NAI MIRS program will continue contributing under the leadership of such a strong and experienced partner."
Founded in 1998, NAI is a partnership between NASA, 14 U.S. teams of universities and other organizations, and six international consortia. NAI's goals are to promote, conduct, and lead interdisciplinary astrobiology research, train a new generation of astrobiology researchers, and share the excitement of the field.
NAI is part of NASA's Astrobiology Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. The institute initiated the MIRS program in 2002 as part of its mission to help train a new generation of researchers in astrobiology and increase diversity within the astrobiology community.
For information about NASA's Astrobiology Program, visit:
For information about the NASA Astrobiology Institute, visit:
NASA has a broad education program that seeks to engage kindergarten through post-graduate students, particularly minority students, which are currently under-represented in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. To learn more about NASA education, visit: