College of Engineering News Room

USF Receives NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Award

University of South Florida receives eighth two-year NSF Florida-Georgia LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate Award.

The University of South Florida led by the College of Engineering and the Office of Graduate Studies has been awarded a 2019-2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (FGLSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate grant to support underrepresented students in pursuit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Ph.D. degrees.

Under the direction of Dr. Jose Zayas-Castro, Executive Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Dr. Dwayne Smith, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Office of Graduate Studies, the $1 million award represents the eighth FGLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate grant to USF. It will seek to extend previous program accomplishments and student successes by recruiting, mentoring and graduating national LSAMP participants into STEM PhD programs in the Colleges of Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Marine Science and the Morsani College of Medicine. USF been a member of the Florida-Georgia LSAMP, a coalition of 14 colleges and universities throughout Florida and Georgia led by Florida A&M University, with the primary mission of increasing the number of historically underrepresented students (including African-American, Black, Hispanic, Latino and Native American students) who complete STEM undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Since the initial USF FGLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate award in 2005, students have earned graduate degrees at rates higher than reported nationally by the Council of Graduate Schools. Ninety-four percent of fellows have earned STEM graduate degrees (MS and PhD), and 80 percent are expected to complete STEM doctorate degrees within 5.5 years of entering their doctoral programs.

bridge to doctorate


bridege to doctorate


bridge to doctorate


Apart from the continued focus on fostering graduate student success, the new NSF FGLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate award will have an increased focus on faculty and peer mentoring activities designed to expand diversity within STEM departments at USF, throughout the FGLSAMP Alliance, and nationally. In particular, a primary goal of the project will be to encourage students to pursue careers in academia as well as within national labs and industry. 

“If we are going to envision broader participation of underrepresented groups in engineering, computer science, and scientific disciplines, it is critical that students have faculty role models who they can relate to and emulate,” says Zayas-Castro, Principal Investigator of the USF FGLSAMP BD project. As evidence of the need for increased faculty diversity, he points to 2017 data from ASEE that indicates less than seven percent of engineering and computer science tenured/tenured-track faculty nationally were from historically underrepresented groups[BB1]. Nationally, the Bridge to the Doctorate initiative is providing a pipeline of talented graduates to recruit for faculty positions.

According to Zayas-Castro, “Four recent USF faculty hires (Olukemi Akintewe, Christopher Alexander, Marvin Andujar, and Michael Maness) were former LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate fellows at their PhD institutions.”  

In addition to engaging fellows as near-peer mentors and departmental teaching assistants, this FGLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate award, will collaborate with the Office of Graduate Studies, the Florida Education Fund’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program, USF NSF I-Corps Program, and STEM graduate departments on future faculty programming to encourage academic careers.

Potential fellows must have demonstrated evidence of past LSAMP participation/support to receive consideration for funding. Each fellowship award will provide a $32,000 stipend, full tuition and fees and student health insurance for up to two years (24 months) for new graduate students arriving fall 2019 and 2020. Thereafter, participating departments, colleges, and research advisors will commit to supporting fellows in good academic standing for the remaining portion of their doctoral programs.  

The USF FGLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate Leadership team and faculty mentors will also continue supporting fellows in submitting national fellowship applications and leverage funding from USF’s Alfred P. Sloan Foundation University of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM), GEM Fellowship, McKnight and other funding programs.

Fellows and alumni have received nationally-competitive awards (NSF GRFP, Fulbright, NASA, Ford, McKnight, Microsoft, Whitaker, National Research Council, etc.) and acquired postdoctoral, faculty, industry, and governmental positions.  A number of fellows have participated in extended research training at federally-funded labs and research centers (NASA, Brookhaven, Air Force Research Lab, Naval Research Lab, Pacific Northwest National Lab, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Idaho National lab) and with international collaborators. 

According to Bernard Batson, Director of Diversity Programs at the College of Engineering and USF FGLSAMP Program Manager, a critical component of the program’s success has been the engagement of faculty mentors in each of the colleges and institutional support from USF.

“For nearly 15 years, we have benefited greatly from the support of both past and current mentors as well additional university resources to seek critical mass in STEM departments and market USF nationally as an inclusive and welcoming campus,” said Batson.  “USF has provided opportunities for many students who otherwise would never have imagined they could (or would) obtain graduate degrees. Our FLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate grants have been an important difference-maker in changing the trajectory of their lives. It truly takes a village to prepare scholars.”