NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center




Grant from NSF will boost computer science research, minority recruitment

New Mexico State University's Computer Science Department has been awarded $1.5 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct cutting-edge research and attract minorities to the computer science field.



Left to right: Roger Hartley, department head of computer science, Brent LeMaster, Eric Shurley, and Daniel Monte, demonstrate some of the computations students learn in computer science. LeMaster, Shurley and Monte are part of the Native American Computer Science Program run by the department that encourages Native American students to seek careers in computer science. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

"Frameworks for the Development of Efficient and Scalable Knowledge-based Systems" is a five-year grant that will help buy new equipment and focus on what the department should be doing in education and research, said Roger Hartley, department head of computer science.

In addition to purchasing a computer classroom and setting up a wireless network, the computer science department will create a "pathways" system for minority students, especially Native Americans.

"The grant will allow the department to set up the 'pathways' system, which will allow students with diverse ethnic, economic and social backgrounds to pursue a computer science degree at a pace and method best suited for them," Hartley said.

This is the second time the department has received money from NSF to increase the number of minorities in the computer science field.

"Four years ago, we were approached by the National Science Foundation to think about a computer science program for Native Americans," Hartley said. "We were invited to submit a proposal and the program was funded for five years."

In 1997, the grant focused on Native American high school students. It was used to create the Native American Computer Science Program, a three-week summer program where students live on campus and attend social and cultural activities. They also participate in field trips and take classes in math, computer science and Web page design.

Eric Shurley, 20, of the Navajo nation, participated in the program for two summers.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do until a friend recommended me to go to the summer camp (at NMSU)," said the freshman from Gallup, N.M. "I got experience interacting with the university, faculty and the technology on campus. It's a great opportunity for Native American students to really see what is out there in the technological world."

The new grant will help the program grow.

"We have three students now at NMSU starting our computer science program who went to the camps," Hartley said. "The number is small, but when you start at zero any gain is significant. The second grant will allow us to expand the program so not only high school students, but two-year community college students and high school teachers can be involved. We will also be working with tribal schools and some schools in the Albuquerque area."

Rita V. Rodriguez, program manager at NSF, said New Mexico State was one of two institutions that received an award under the Computer and Information Sciences & Engineering Research Infrastructure program.

New Mexico State "wrote a very convincing proposal," Rodriguez said. "The research areas that they were articulating were done very well. We thought the group was very solid and could do a good job. In addition to the proposal, they appeared to be complying with the servicing of minorities."

Photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/computer_science.jpg.
CUTLINE: Left to right: Roger Hartley, department head of computer science, Brent LeMaster, Eric Shurley, and Daniel Monte, demonstrate some of the computations students learn in computer science. LeMaster, Shurley and Monte are part of the Native American Computer Science Program run by the department that encourages Native American students to seek careers in computer science. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Jeany Llorente
Dec. 2, 2002