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NSF Awards $1.5Million Grant to CRF Scholar and UMA Professor Nilanjana Dasgupta to examine how Peers Influence Adolescents' Interest and Aspirations in Science and Mathematics

The Center for Research on Families is pleased to announce that Dr. Nilanjana Dasgupta, Family Research Scholar (2006-07 and 2012-13) and professor of psychology, has been awarded a 5-year grant from the National Science Foundation in the amount of $1,499,993. Her project begins next summer and is entitled, “Peer Influences on Adolescents' Self-Concept, Achievement, And Future Aspirations in Science and Mathematics: Does Student Gender and Race Matter?”

She will collaborate with co-investigator Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb at the University of Texas at Austin and work with a diverse team of middle schools spread across the nation from coast to coast.

In today's globalized world, much of the future job growth is projected to be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This raises concerns about Americans’ preparedness for STEM jobs given the small percent of domestic students who choose to pursue these fields and the large percent who switch out of STEM sometime during the educational pipeline. Women and racial minorities represent untapped human capital that could enhance the STEM workforce because together, they comprise more than 50% of the American population.  Dr. Dasgupta’s research project focuses on solutions to the attrition of girls and racial minorities early in development.  Recognizing that the “leaky pipeline” starts early, Dasgupta seeks “to identify what types of peer relationships and classroom dynamics in math and science classes that get girls hooked on STEM, increase their confidence, and motivate them to aspire higher.”

An important long-term outcome of the research will be to translate the findings into a set of concrete classroom practices, interventions, and learning methods that will be disseminated broadly to K-12 teachers, principals, education policy professionals, and others in order to enhance STEM teaching practices and attract, retain, and advance more girls and students of color in STEM. Many of the classroom practices, interventions, and learning methods that emerge from this project are likely to also benefit young women in college-level STEM classes.

Dr. Dasgupta is a leading expert on women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.  Her research examines how implicit social expectations and stereotypes affect people's attitudes and behavior in subtle, often unconscious ways.  These implicit stereotypes also influence individuals’ sense of self and views about their own competencies.  Her work identifies the circumstances and strategies necessary to prevent implicit stereotypes from negatively affecting girls, women’s, and racial/ethnic minority students’ academic and professional self-concept.   She has been previously funded five grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Mental Health including an NSF CAREER award.  Last August she spoke at a roundtable organized by the White House that brought together researchers, K-12 STEM educators, STEM policy makers, technology companies, and venture capitalists in the search for effective ways to increase the participation of underrepresented youth, girls and racial minorities, in technology and to enhance the numbers of American technology innovators and entrepreneurs in the next generation.

As part of its Women In Science Initiative, the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Natural Sciences presented a lecture by Dr. Nilanjana Dasgupta, professor of psychology. She discussed her current research on how contact with female professors and peers in science and math classes functions as "social vaccines" that protect women's academic self-confidence despite negative stereotypes, thereby increasing their interest in pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math as majors and careers.  Click HERE for the full lecture.


To read the full abstract go to HERE.  More about Professor Dasgupta can be found HEREand her trip to the White House HERE.



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