A grand challenge facing society is that STEM faculty nationwide do not mirror the make-up of society. Without underrepresented minority (URM) faculty, URM STEM students lack the role models to learn from, work with and emulate. However, there is a national shortage of URMs applying for faculty positions. The Hampton - Brandeis PREM’s Path-to-Professorship (PtP) Program is a solution to this problem. It is designed to increase the number of URMs in the pipeline to faculty appointments. The PtP is a postdoctoral fellow training program aimed at providing superior training in cutting-edge materials research and preparing individuals for assuming full-time faculty positions. The key career development activities undertaken by the PREM PtP Fellows are: (1) formal training in a Hampton PREM laboratory under the close supervision of a faculty member (2) leadership role of a PREM research thrust, education and outreach activities, (3) supervision and mentorship of graduate and undergraduate research fellows, (4) attending the microfuidics Brandeis MRSEC Summer Courses (as needed for the research thrust), (5) participating in the PREM Mentorship and Networking Program, (6) preparing an Individual Development Plan with a MRSEC-based Academic Career Mentor, and (7) developing an independent research project in preparation for extramural grant proposal and transition to faculty status.
One former PtP fellow, Stefan Cooper, is now a professor at Alcorn State University and served on his first NSF panel in 2019. The new research professor, Eric Kumi Barimah joined the PtP program in 2019. Brandeis MRSEC faculty mentors will host the PtPs during stays at the MRSEC as the PtPs develop their own research programs. The PtPs will gain experience in being mentors themselves by supervising Hampton undergraduates who participate in the MRSEC REU at Brandeis and continue research as PREM scholars at Hampton.