Norfolk State




Institutional Research Capacity. NSU is one of the nation’s largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) averaging 5,500 enrolled undergraduate and graduate students per year. The university has designated Science and Engineering as major thrusts for its strategic plan and is committed to providing an opportunity for students with diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in the STEM fields. In particular, NSU has established a thriving Masters/Ph.D. Program in Materials Science and Engineering, accredited through the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV), which currently has 15 PhD candidates and 23 M.S. candidates performing research under the direction of a multidisciplinary group of 17 faculty researchers and postdoctoral associates from the College of Science Engineering and Technology (CSET). The degree programs are housed in the Department of Physics and partially administered by the Center for Materials Research (CMR). Typically, the materials science research effort results in 60-80 refereed journal articles, 40-50 talks and posters at research conferences, and ~$1.5M in research funding each year. On-campus research is primarily conducted in the McDemmond Center for Applied Research (MCAR) which is a six floor, 128,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art research facility.

PREM Pathway Starting Point. Historically, the department has an average yearly student population of between 8-12 undergraduate majors which translates into about two physics graduates per year. Although this is a small number of graduates per year during the period between 2006 and 2013, that rate resulted in more African American graduates with degrees in physics from NSU than all the other state institutions combined.

Challenges and Opportunities. The two major recruiting challenges for the department are funding for recruiting-related outreach activities and financial incentives to support undergraduate and high school student researchers. The department periodically sends faculty to recruit students at local high schools but unfortunately, this passive activity is far less effective than immersing students in a research experience in the laboratory, allowing high schoolers to ask real research questions, interact with diverse role models, and participate in faculty and undergraduate student-led activities. A common challenge between NSU and
FLC is that financial support can influence the attractiveness of a program to underprivileged students, who may otherwise have to find a job in an area outside of their major to support themselves through college. This financial support will help to recruit and retain PREM undergraduate scholars to the NSU Physics Department.

Although recruitment is low, students entering the department have a good record of successfully completing the program, resulting in a relatively high retention rate.  However, increasing the student population through aggressive recruitment activities requires a
comprehensive approach to retention, which has to include an overhaul of the outdated physics undergraduate program. The plan to address recruitment, retention, and program modernization centers on developing an active PREM undergraduate student group
that is actively engaged in PREM research, professional development, and STEM outreach for recruiting.