Category: Awards and Accolades

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Biases in NSF Funding Create Surprising Disparities

Systemic biases, including biases in funding, are detrimental not only to individual careers but also to the quality of scholarship, the academic research endeavor, and shared commitments to integrity, meritocracy, and fairness.  This week’s article from the New York Times [] reports that white PIs are more likely to be successful at NSF than any other racial group. An unexpected finding was that Asian-identifying PIs were the least likely of all racial groups to be funded by NSF and this trend has been persistent, even as Black and Hispanic PIs have made gains in research awards. The study’s authors [] note that these patterns extended across all disciplinary directorates, external review scores, and were even more pronounced for unsolicited proposals.

In a rebuttal to these findings, another article available in preprint [] argues that career stage and rate of proposal submissions partially explain the rates of disparity among racial groups. However, the original study’s authors maintain that disparities are engrained in the academic funding model and offer a number of process-oriented suggestions for change at funding agencies such as making funding data transparent and revising the reliance on merit-based reward systems that tend to perpetuate the very biases they are supposed to mitigate. Thus, this article illustrates that a commitment to sustained action that eliminates disparities is needed at all levels of academia. 

Today’s feature was shared with us by the ADVANCE PI Team. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, which is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog ( To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at ( or visit our website:

Nancy Langston awarded Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society for Environmental History

Nancy Langston (SS/CFRES) has been awarded the 2021 Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society for Environmental History. This award is given to one individual each year who has contributed significantly to environmental history scholarship and recognizes exceptional lifetime achievement in the field.

Langston has published five books and more than 50 peer-reviewed papers, and she has been awarded more than a million dollars in competitive external funding. Her current research, on woodland caribou and other migratory wildlife of the north, is supported with a Fulbright Research Chair, a Mellon Fellowship, a Mandel Award in the Humanities, and an NSF research grant in Science and Technology Studies.

Source: Tech Today, February 26, 2021

Karen Colbert Named 2021 Diversity Scholar for RStudio Virtual Conference

Ms. Karen Colbert , a PhD student in Computational Sciences and Engineering and a graduate research assistant for ADVANCE at Michigan Tech has been selected as a Diversity Scholar for the 2021 RStudio Virtual Conference. 

Ms. Colbert is one of 70 Diversity Scholars selected from around the globe, all of them focused on building skills for teaching and sharing. Ms. Colbert notes that her role as a Diversity Scholar will focus on ways she can use RStudio to help “bridge equity for Native faculty and faculty who serve Tribal communities.” 

A plethora of teaching and user workshops and resources are available through the RStudio network.  Following completion of the Virtual Conference, Ms. Colbert will participate in two online workshops and become part of an enhanced network of scholars and resources, available both before and after the conference.

Ms. Colbert says that a large barrier facing tribal colleges is accessibility and sustainability with regard to costly technology, such as licenses, equipment, and support. Since RStudio is open source and has vast capabilities to perform tasks ranging from web design to reporting to statistical analyses and assessments, Ms. Colbert hopes that learning how to “teach” R will enable her to host workshops for faculty.  She says it may also help her design an interactive course to help those who may be intimidated by programming, and ultimately create a platform to introduce tribal colleges to the data visualization, supercomputing, and cloud computing communities.

 In addition to the equity gaps facing Native faculty, Ms. Colbert  also acknowledged that there are many equity gaps for faculty at all ranks and across institutions, including MIchigan Tech. 

This is where Ms. Colbert’s  connection to ADVANCE at Michigan Tech–and its mission to enhance equity in STEM faculty–comes into play. She hopes that her research, her experiences as a Diversity Scholar, and her position as a graduate research assistant with ADVANCE, will allow her to pursue opportunities to bring resources to all faculty members. 

Further, she will endeavor  to assist faculty in demonstrating “their best work to the world in the most professional way, whether it’s for teaching undergraduates or within our own research.” 

Ms. Colbert believes this goal starts with making tools and resources accessible to everyone. Her ultimate aim is to develop unique R packages as a part of the solution.

Ms. Colbert holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and a master of science in Data Science, both from Michigan Tech. She also serves as lead math faculty at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Baraga. Mich., in addition to pursuing her PhD and conducting research. 

ADVANCE is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. To learn more about our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at and visit our website at

Karen Colbert. 2021 Diversity Scholar, RStudio Global Conference

Tech Team Wins NASA’s BIG Idea Challenge

The post below has been reposted from the Jan. 13, 2021 edition of Tech Today.

A team from Michigan Tech has captured the top prize in the finals of NASA’s BIG Idea Challenge. BIG stands for Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing.

The Michigan Tech team was one of eight finalists in the competition. Teams were challenged to present their innovative concepts addressing near-term technology capability requirements to support NASA’s exploration objectives for permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) in and near the moon’s polar regions. This intense competition will be judged by a panel of NASA and industry experts.

The MTU team’s winning project is Tethered permanently shadowed Region EXplorer (T-REX). Paul van Susante (ME-EM) is the faculty advisor/Principal Investigator on the project and graduate student Marcello Guadagno, is the student lead.

Prompt Names Barr Associate Editor for STEM

The story below originated in Tech Today on Jan. 12, 2020

Nancy Barr (ME-EM), has been appointed associate editor for STEM for Prompt: A Journal of Academic Writing Assignments. Prompt is a biannual refereed online journal that publishes academic writing assignments accompanied by reflective essays.

It publishes assignments directed at both undergraduate and graduate students from all academic disciplines. Prompt is an open-access journal, with all articles freely available to all readers. For information about submission, contact Barr or click on this link.

Sun Named to Lou and Herbert Wacker Professorship in Mechanical Engineering

Ye “Sarah” Sun (ME-EM) has accepted the Lou and Herbert Wacker Professorship in Mechanical Engineering, which was created to retain and attract high-quality faculty who are at the top of their profession, can excite students to think beyond the classroom material, and knows how to integrate their research into the classroom.

Sun was chosen for this position as she is recognized as a rising star and outstanding researcher in the area of wearable sensors, systems, and robotics and a respected member of the smart health community.

Among her research honors is the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Research Award on “System-on-Cloth: A Cloud Manufacturing Framework for Embroidered Wearable Electronics.”

In recognition of her innovative research in wearable sensors, Sun’s NSF CAREER award was selected for presentation to congressional offices in April 2019.

She is also the director of the Cyber-Physical System Center and associate director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems at Michigan Tech.

Sun will use this recognition and support to enhance her research in wearable and soft robotics. Her goal is to develop flexible textile robotics by leveraging the physical understanding and modeling of textile materials and dynamics and the recent advances of morphological computing.

Textile robotics are not only able to enhance human capabilities via wearable design but also achieve autonomous locomotion. The controllable structures of textiles directly provide a unified platform that is capable of integrating sensing and actuating into textile robotics itself. The positioning support will be used to recruit graduate students and to set up the manufacturing platform.

This post appeared in Tech Today, Dec. 16, 2020. Posted by Office of the Provost & Senior VP for Academic Affairs

Darnisha Slade Selected to the Michigan Community Service Commission

Darnishia L. Slade (PHC) has been appointed to a three-year term to the Michigan Community Service Commission, representing fellow experts in the delivery of human, educational, environmental or public safety services to communities and individuals.

The Michigan Community Service Commission strives to build a culture of service by providing vision and resources to strengthen communities through volunteerism. The Commission develops a three-year comprehensive national and community service plan for the state that shall be updated annually, oversees and submits the state’s applications to the Corporation for National and Community Service and other public and private funding sources, establishes policies and procedures for the use of federal funds, and develops initiatives to promote community service in coordination with existing programs.

“I am honored to receive this appointment from Governor Whitmer!” said Slade. “I am ready to roll my sleeves up and do the work of continuing to make Michigan one of the nation’s leading state service commissions and a model state for volunteerism. I believe that through volunteerism lives are enriched, cultural understanding is exchanged, and lasting partnerships are established.”

Lorelle Meadows, dean of the Pavlis Honors College, says “Dar is an excellent individual to serve the State of Michigan in this way. She has the depth of knowledge, experience, and passion to make an impact on community service outcomes so important to our state at this time.”

Slade is an instructor, advisor, and the manager of global engagement programs for Pavlis Honors College. She is a member of the IDEA Hub Leadership Team and an organization advisor for the Society of Intellectual Sisters and Canterbury House.


This story was originally published by Pavlis Honors College in the December 1 edition of Tech Today.

Megan Frost Elected to National AKA Board of Directors

Megan Frost, Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the American Kinesiology Association (AKA).

Alan Smith, president of AKA, said her selection “from a stellar pool of candidates, is a reflection of the confidence of Kinesiology leaders in [her] capacity to advance our unified field of study.”

Her three-year term of office will begin in January 2021.


This story was originally published in the December 1 edition of Tech Today.

Michigan Tech Announces Research Excellence Fund Awards

Originally posted in Tech Today on Nov. 30 by Vice President for Research Office.

The Vice President for Research Office announces the Fall 2020 REF awards. Thanks to the individual REF reviewers and the REF review panelists, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process.

Research Seed Grants:

  • Sajjad Bigham, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Bo Chen, Computer Science
  • Daniel Dowden, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Ana Dyreson, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Hassan Masoud, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Xinyu Ye, Civil and Environmental Engineering