Education

Fabrice Mizero, SIParCS intern
Fabrice Mizero gives his 2013 SIParCS presentation, “Evaluating the Impact of Infiniband Routing Algorithms on Network Performance.”

CISL is committed to NCAR’s core education mission, offering opportunities for students and recent graduates to hone their skills in mathematical and computational science concepts. CISL also works to foster their professional development in fields that rely on advanced cyberinfrastructure. CISL maintains its ongoing dedication to attracting and retaining a diverse and talented staff that will meet supercomputing and computational science needs in the decades to come. CISL has also utilized the Diversity Coordinator position to support its transformative vision of creating a Diversity Education and Engagement Laboratory in the computational geosciences. This vision has several focal points, one of which emphasizes building a collaborative network to increase student and educator awareness and participation. Another is to support and develop educational tools centered on NCAR’s traditional atmospheric science disciplines in addition to the computational sciences, mathematics, and statistics.

2013 SIParCS Internship Highlight

On 25-26 September 2012, a little over a month after her arrival, CISL Diversity Coordinator Stephanie Barr visited Philander Smith College as part of an extended tour across three EPSCoR states: Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Over the course of 10 days, Stephanie engaged in a variety of activities focused on inclusion, diversity, education, and engagement such as presentations for local students from Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), meetings with potential collaborators including administrative personnel and faculty, and attending institution-hosted events. Located in Arkansas, Philander is a private four-year undergraduate liberal arts MSI affiliated with the United Methodist church and a founding member of the United Negro College Fund. The visit to Philander Smith was hosted by the school’s student chapter of the National Institute of Science and served as a means of both promoting upcoming internships and an opportunity to initiate or strengthen existing external partnerships.

After Ms. Barr’s visit, Fabrice Mizero, a rising junior and computer science major at Philander researched the Summer Internship in Parallel Computational Science (SIParCS) program and decided to apply. He said that he believed this opportunity would “open many doors.” In May, he was accepted into the 2013 SIParCS program under the mentorship of CISL computational scientist Dr. John Dennis. Fabrice became the first Philander Smith intern to pursue a SIParCS internship, and he was the only undergraduate student in the SIParCS class of 2013. His story is one that directly embodies the spirit and desired outcomes of having a Diversity Coordinator. Fabrice originally hails from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. One of four children, Fabrice worked to decrease the financial burden of his widowed mother. His determination and the work ethic he learned from his mother translated into a highly successful high school career. According to Fabrice, “only rich kids can afford university,” which meant he would need to rely upon the Rwandan Presidential Scholarship (RPS) in Science and Technology for post-secondary support. Because of the high cost of equipping laboratories and recruiting qualified professors in math, computer science, physics, chemistry, and biology, it is currently impractical to educate students in Rwanda. RPS provides a merit-based approach to educate its most promising students in these specialized areas of study. Being chosen to receive the full tuition and additional support provided by RPS is no small feat. Each scholar goes through a rigorous assessment process, including national examinations in English (French is the native tongue of most Rwandans), and a qualifying interview. Fabrice excelled during his time with SIParCS. While it came at the expense of delaying his first return to his home country in two years to be with his family, he explained that the experience was well worth it. Fabrice has expressed an interest in being a champion for NCAR within the RPS community as he plans to complete his degree and pursue a Ph.D. in high perfroance computing to return to Rwanda as an asset to his country and a mentor for future students. He said, “My country is aiming to be the IT hub in Africa for 2020. It is the taxpayers’ obligation and desire to give back. I plan to utilize the knowledge from my academic experience [as one way of] contributing to this goal.”

CISL’s Diversity Education and Engagement Laboratory

Over the last year, CISL has leveraged existing and developing relationships across organizations and institutions to support and write grants that serve to enhance our diversity, education, and engagement efforts using critical and soundly designed assessment tools that will enable us to collect actionable data about our programs. These data will enhance scientific rigor in our activities, provide vital feedback that will enhance their impact and efficacy, and broaden the potential for ever-wider and more far-reaching collaborations with educators by creating within NCAR a discipline-specific laboratory for education and diversity research focused on computational geoscience. Two examples of such collaborations in FY2013 include:

  • NSF EPSCoR WyCEHG grant. Over the past year, CISL’s Outreach Services Group worked with Anne Sylvester and Beth Cable at Wyoming’s EPSCoR office on EOT aspects of NSF’s Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) grant. This included their summer field course in hydrology and geophysics, their summer exchange program with Jackson State University, and recruitment and collaboration with other partners to increase the number of participants from underrepresented groups. A portion of this multimillion-dollar grant to the University of Wyoming will serve to develop educational resources in the form of teacher toolboxes. These toolboxes will provide standards-based computational and atmospheric science activities to the K-12 community, especially those in the Rocky Mountain and Front Range regions.

  • Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant. CISL is currently working with Jacqueline Leonard at UW’s Science and Mathematics Teaching Center on a recently awarded NSF grant named Visualization Basics: Using Gaming to Improve Computational Thinking (UGame-ICompute). This work will assist in training and mentoring participants, and in developing age-appropriate tools, modules, and/or activities centered on computational thinking.

Rationale and funding

CISL education efforts contribute to CISL’s educational imperatives for workforce training and development, and for broadening participation. These efforts are supported by CISL Core funds, with supplemental funding supplied by other sources as appropriate. The Diversity Coordinator position is funded 25% by the University of Wyoming, 25% by NCAR Directorate Core funds, and 50% by CISL Core funds.