GP_EXTRA: Academic Year Pathways Research Experience Program (AY-PREP)

Project No.
PI Name
Aaron Velasco
University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract 1

GP_EXTRA: Academic Year Pathways Research Experience Program (AY-PREP)

Presentation Type
Lixin Jin, University of Texas at El Paso Lin Ma, University of Texas at El Paso Tina Carrick, University of Texas at El Paso


Recruiting, retaining, and preparing the next generation of diverse geoscientists requires exposing students to the wide-range of career opportunities and emerging geoscience topics and environmental issues through hands-on activities and research experiences. The geosciences, one of the least diverse Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields, address complicated and dynamic Earth systems. AY-PREP will employ effective and evidence-based strategies to engage a diverse student population for the nation to remain a leader in the geosciences.


The goal of the project is to recruit, retain, and prepare the next generation of diverse geoscientists. This will be accomplished by exposing students to the wide-range of career opportunities, emerging geoscience topics, and environmental issues through research experiences during the academic year, hands-on activities, and career preparation in summer camps and a weekly professional development seminar.


The El Paso region, surrounded by the Franklin Mountains and within the Chihuahuan Desert, provides an ideal natural setting for exploring geoscience and environmental issues. Located at the southern end of the Rio Grande Rift and along the Rio Grande River, geology in El Paso features visible and easily accessible fault scarps, basin and range topography, and volcanoes. Furthermore, the El Paso area shares many environmental challenges with our border city, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, including limited fresh water resources, elevated soil salinity in agriculture, and dust and air pollution issues. We build upon a past, successful efforts plus leverage the University of Texas at El Pasoメs (UTEPメs) unique demographic and research infrastructure to develop a comprehensive program that recruits, retains, and prepares the next generation of diverse geoscientists to earn advance degrees and/or enter the workforce: Academic Year Pathways Research Experience Program (AY-PREP). The program will include: 1) an academic year interdisciplinary research experience for a cohort of six undergraduates, 2) weekly seminars and workshops to expose students to cutting-edge research, graduate programs, and career opportunities, and prepare students for technical, professional, and soft skills; 3) a stratified mentoring program; 4) the opportunity for the cohort to participate in the deployment of a seismic field experiment; and 5) a two-week summer bridge camp that will bring together incoming PREP students, undergraduate students, senior high school students, and pre-service teachers. The summer camp will include field trips to the Jemez Critical Zone Observatory in New Mexico, integration of IRIS Education and Outreach programming, training on geophysical/geochemical instrumentation and sensor technology, and the synthesis of large datasets that will serve as a foundation for research projects.


The long�term measures of success for the implementation program will be based on measuring against the goals of the program: increasing the number of minority students in the geosciences and environmental sciences.

Broader Impacts

UTEP serves the local region of El Paso and has an 80% Hispanic student population. AY-PREP, based on proven strategies and leveraging UTEP�s demographics, emphasizes the development of Hispanic students in the geosciences. In particular, we will fund six (6) students per year to participate in the comprehensive program, but open all training to 10 more students per year. We thus have the potential to impact over 45 undergraduate students for the 3-year duration of the project. With historic strength in STEM disciplines and in serving the local, underserved region, the Washington Monthly recognized UTEP as the top school in the country recently for Social Mobility, and the Dept. of Geological Sciences has had a long history of producing Hispanic geoscientists. The proposed AY-PREP program will broaden participation in the geoscience pipeline among Hispanic students, plus provide opportunities for leveraging efforts for the development of senior and junior faculty involved in the project.

Unexpected Challenges

None at this time.


None at this time.