A new, multi-institutional MS-to-PhD program will help strengthen collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) campuses and expand access to graduate education in the growing fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, and neural engineering. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Douglas Weber, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering and neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, is a co-principal investigator of this program along with Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, PhD, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
The two-year BRIDGE Program, recently funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), will actively recruit individuals currently underrepresented in STEM fields, including student veterans and children of veterans. It will provide a hands-on research experience and target individuals who have not had similar research opportunities at their undergraduate institutions.
“The research is the focus of this program,” said Dr. Torres-Oviedo. “The BRIDGE Program will prepare students to compete for PhD positions at top-tier research institutions.”
In addition to the rigorous curriculum and research, students will participate in a summer internship at one of nine participating national laboratories — an experience that the program leaders hope will generate a pipeline of talent into these labs and the private sector.
“The global economy relies heavily on highly qualified personnel having advanced degrees in science and engineering,” said Dr. Weber. “For the US to remain competitive, especially in rapidly developing sectors like robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and neural engineering, participation in research-intensive graduate education must be expanded.”
The program will leverage the complementary strengths of both universities and utilize established resources like the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC).
“CMU and Pitt share a long and enviable history of providing graduate students with research and training opportunities that span both campuses, leveraging the unique strengths of each. The BRIDGE program builds on this history to expand access to graduate training opportunities in these high-demand areas,” said Dr. Weber.
While similar MS-to-PhD programs exist across the country, none are focused on engineering or neuroscience and actively recruit students underrepresented in STEM. Black and Hispanic individuals continue to earn a smaller proportion of degrees in STEM relative to their share of the U.S. population.
“I have been fortunate to attract talented engineers from Hispanic background into my research group, and it has been a privilege to facilitate their transition from skilled technicians to independent thinkers,” Dr. Torres-Oviedo said. “This program is aimed at supporting the intellectual growth and broadening the professional opportunities for many other students like them.”
More information about the program can be found here. Interested students can apply now. The first cohort will begin this program in the Summer of 2022.
Illustration: University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering.