York Professor Scores Major Grant

Dr. Timothy Paglione, the current chairperson of the Department of Earth and Physical Sciences at York College/CUNY, recently received a National Science Foundation award from the Partnerships in Astronomy & Astrophysics Research and Education program (PAARE).

The five-year award, starting in September 2012, totals $1.74 million and is set to benefit students from under-represented minority communities throughout the City University of New York (CUNY).

Paglione is teaming with colleagues from CUNY member colleges such as Borough of Manhattan College (BMCC), New York City College of Technology (City Tech), Hunter College, Lehman College and the College of Staten Island (CSI), as well as Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), to mentor students.

Known as AstroCom NYC, the program is “designed to improve access by urban minority students to opportunities in astrophysical research by greatly enhancing partnerships between research astronomers” in New York City.

“We are creating a substantive and sustainable partnership spanning New York City to provide centralized, personalized mentoring as well as financial and academic support to CUNY undergraduates throughout their studies, plus the resources and opportunities to further CUNY faculty research with students,” said Dr. Paglione.

According to Paglione, the group is creating a formal conduit for CUNY students, of which he says well over half are African American or Hispanic, to research experiences.

“We hope AstroCom NYC may serve as a model to urban areas with large and diverse minority populations,” said Paglione. “And to this end we plan to widely publish our results and present progress reports at national conferences.

AstroCom NYC, “will provide – and prepare them for – research opportunities with structured and centralized mentoring, personal attention, and a rigorous Methods of Scientific Research course developed specifically to this purpose.”

The program offers a seminar course around the weekly Columbia colloquia, scholarships and stipends, and regular assessment. The stipends help to “alleviate the burdens at home typical for CUNY students so they may concentrate on their academic success.”

“I applaud Dr. Paglione for this signal achievement,” said Dr. Ivelaw L. Griffith, provost of York College. “The grant not only allows us to push the envelope on grant productivity, but also to extend our undergraduate research engagement. As well, it allows us to strengthen educational partnerships, both within and beyond CUNY.”

According to Paglione, the various student research projects will form the backbone of AstroCom NYC.

“We have years of experience mentoring undergraduates in research on galaxy properties and evolution, nearby and low mass stars, evolved stars, numerical simulations and modeling, and observational astronomy from the radio to gamma-rays,” he says in the abstract for the program. “AstroCom NYC will facilitate further research by CUNY faculty, resulting in more contributions to their fields, and enhanced research collaborations among the program partners, while attracting more diverse students to astrophysics.”

The participants will be a mix of high school students, CUNY freshman, and other CUNY undergraduates early in their studies. AstroCom NYC applications from eligible students will be reviewed by the Selection Committee and ranked according by a “demonstrated level of academic seriousness and quality. Standardized tests and GPA will be considered, but the entire student transcript will be taken into account, with greater weight given to science courses. Two letters of recommendation will also be required “and given substantial weight.”

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