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Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training


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What is IGERT?
 
IGERT is an agency-wide program of the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The acronym stands for Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training.  According to NSF's former Assistant Director of Education and Human Resources, Luther Williams: "IGERT is the first NSF program to demonstrate concretely NSF's strategic goal to integrate education and research at the graduate level."
 
By incorporating new education models and encouraging a more intensive focus on collaborative research training in an environment that goes beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries, IGERT seeks to educate the scientists, engineers, and educators of tomorrow—providing them with in-depth knowledge in their chosen disciplines, comprehensive interdisciplinary training, and the technical, professional, and personal skills required to become career leaders and creative agents for change. The program acts as a catalyst for cultural change in graduate education, encouraging a greater diversity of student participation and preparation, thus contributing to the development of a diverse, globally-engaged workforce of scientists and engineers.
 
Why change the way graduate students are educated?
 
In their 1995 report, “Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers,” the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy noted the need to repair what they call the “misalignment” between how graduate students are trained and what potential employers are looking for in an employee. U.S. graduate schools of science and engineering are “important not only as sources of future leaders in science and engineering, but also as an indispensable underpinning of national strength and prosperity—sustaining the creativity and intellectual vigor needed to address a growing range of social and economic concerns.” Advanced degree holders, they go on to say, play a central and growing role in American industrial and commercial life and are responsible for the economic and industrial well being of the nation. It all begins with the education of students (http://books.nap.edu/catalog/4935.html).
 
So a major goal of IGERT is to ensure that the education of science and engineering students at the graduate level is of a caliber that will propel these graduates and the companies and institutions that they will represent into the new century—further bolstering the strength of industry and the nation as a whole. It all begins with the students. And these students will be better educated and prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow if the proper university programs are in place, programs that provide them with the proper tools they need to demonstrate competency in the fast-paced, technological arena. IGERT strives, through its support, to provide institutions across the country with the resources required to start and enhance these types of programs.
 
As time passes it is becoming more and more evident that, in addition to being astute in a chosen discipline, those holding advanced degree must also be prepared to address intellectual issues that transcend disciplinary boundaries. A great percentage of pioneering research and technology is to be found at the interdisciplinary level, at the interfaces of traditional disciplines. This being said, students in IGERT-supported programs not only learn to be proficient in a chosen discipline, but in multiple disciplines that are interrelated to the chosen discipline. Through coursework, research experience and an intense focus on career development, IGERT students will come away from their upper-level education experience with an in-depth, multi-disciplinary education, complete with competent communication and team work skills, a comprehensive knowledge of modern instrumentation, responsible, professional research skills and a sense of interdisciplinary awareness at the national and international levels.
 
The IGERT investment is an attempt to develop educational models toward this end, by directly focusing on the integration of education and research. Resulting programs will offer experiences relevant to both academic and non-academic careers by linking graduate research with research in industry, national laboratories and other non-academic settings. Through collaborations between academe and industry, graduate students in IGERT-funded programs will be well-positioned to take the lead in mastering the multi-disciplinary challenges of the future.
 
To learn more about NSF’s IGERT program, please visit their website at http://www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/igert/start.htm.
 

This material is based upon work Supported by the National Science
Foundation under Grant No., DGE- 0221681.  Any opinion, findings, and
conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material are those of the
author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
   
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