You Can't Have Success if You Don't Get in the Game

In today's society, computers and various forms of technology are ubiquitous, especially in scientific research. Through an NSF-IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education Research and Training) grant from the National Science Foundation, Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit, Michigan, has funding to support graduate research fellowships in the applications of high-performance computing. The fellowships have an annual paid stipend of $25,000 and include tuition and health-care coverage. Eligible research fields include:

  • Automotive and aerospace systems,

  • Medicine, genetics, biology, and biochemistry,

  • Chemistry, physics, and novel materials,

  • High-performance computing,

  • Traffic flow and transportation,

  • Data mining,

  • Applied mathematics and probability/statistics, and

  • Bioinformatics and biocomputing.

With funding from the NSF-IGERT grant, the interdisciplinary high-performance computing program at WSU has expanded to reach out to students at all levels. For the summer 2003 program, research fellowships will be available for undergraduate students. Additionally, interested high school students may also participate. In fact, during the summer 2002 program, a Detroit high school student conducted research in high-performance computing and simulation dealing with the fragmentation of protonated diglycine (a small peptide ion) when it collides with a diamond surface.

The student was asked to comment on what she liked most about her summer research experience. "It's the academic growth [I] gained, and the exposure and enrichment [that] afforded me an insight into a possible career in this area," said this student, "I am already ahead in the game related to a possible college curriculum of interest." Although the placement of high school students is limited to the Detroit metropolitan area, opportunities in high-performance computing do exist for undergraduate (summers) and graduate (year-round) students at WSU.

Clearly, high-performance computing is a growing area that offers myriad applications and research-development experiences. A great range of skills is needed for success in this area of study. That includes problem-solving and decision-making skills; communication skills (written and verbal); computer and analytical skills; and the ability to work in teams. These skills can be applied not only to computer science and mathematics but also to areas such as biochemistry, biology, materials science, and engineering.

However, given the breadth of research areas covered within the main focus areas of the program, the opportunities for students to make significant contributions (and find jobs upon graduation) are legion. Graduating students might find employment in, for example, academia, national research laboratories, pharmaceuticals, industrial drug design, manufacturing and automotive, medical/health professions such as bioinformatics.

Why Wayne State?

WSU is an urban commuter institution with a total student enrollment of more than 31,000 students, of which 23.84% are African American, 5.47% are Asian Pacific Islander, 1.94% are Hispanic, and 0.38% are American Indian/Alaskan Native. This makes WSU the third largest school in Michigan. . Each year, WSU ranks in the top 10 nationally in terms of the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to students of African descent.

The university, as well as its science and engineering departments, is committed to increasing diversity at the undergraduate and graduate level. There are a variety of minority programs at WSU, such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in the biomedical sciences for minority students, two National Institutes of Health programs, namely, Minority Access to Research Careers and Minority Biomedical Research Support. These programs support a variety of science majors, such as chemistry, biology, pharmacology, and chemical toxicology.

All students are welcome to apply for the NSF-IGERT undergraduate and graduate fellowships, but we particularly encourage minority students to apply for these funding opportunities. There are hundreds of students across the country with the skill set to be successful in high-performance computing, but the only way to achieve success or reach this potential is to "get in the game."

Dr. Keith B. Williams is the director of the office of Minority Student Initiatives at Wayne State. Dr. William L. Hase is the interim chair for the Department of Computer Science and principal investigator of the NSF-IGERT grant. More information about the high-performance computing and the scientific computing programs can be found on the Web. For general information, send e-mail to (Dr. Williams) or (Dr. Hase).

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