Vol. 17, No. 30May 7, 1998

Minority fellowship program
in chemical engineering grows

The Department of Chemical Engineering has been awarded a $120,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to increase the number of minority doctoral students in chemical engineering.

A similar fellowship was created recently by DuPont-Merck, and both of these add to an existing program supported by the Amoco Oil Co.

The five-year Sloan grant will allow the department to establish one fellowship in 1998, two in 1999 and two in 2000. These fellowships will be supplemented through faculty research grants, departmental fellowship programs and the minority fellowship program administered by UD's graduate office.

Eric W. Kaler, chemical engineering, said having this kind of support for minority students through graduate school will make it possible to double the number of "underrepresented minorities" graduating from Delaware's chemical engineering doctoral programs. Four minority students are currently enrolled.

"There are less than 800 minority students graduating from undergraduate chemical engineering programs nationwide," Kaler said. Only a handful go on to graduate degrees, so the competition is intense. Because the Sloan and DuPont Merck grants cover most of these students' expenses, they help the University compete against schools like MIT, Princeton, the California Institute of Technology, Stanford and the University of California at Berekley. UD doesn't draw from its own undergraduate pool so that students can get a more well-rounded educational experience.

The Sloan grant will also encourage expansion of outreach programs to schools with large minority populations and to professional organizations and individuals representing minorities.

However, another aspect of the grant that is significant, Kaler said, is that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation approached the University of Delaware, not the other way around.

Kaler received a letter from the foundation inviting him to submit a minority fellowship proposal which he prepared with Andrew Zydney. The letter stated that statistics compiled by the National Research Council credited the University as one of the top producers of minority chemical engineering Ph.D.s in the nation, and as such, it was eligible for funding.

Over the past seven years, five minority students have received doctorates in chemical engineering from the University. The letter said that the mission of the foundation's program is to "increase the number of underrepresented minorities receiving Ph.D.s in all fields of mathematics, science and engineering." With UD's record and DuPont-Merck and Sloan foundation funding, that mission could be accomplished, Kaler said. 