Washington, DC--Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan for a pilot program to provide $3 million for research traineeships to broaden and diversify the nuclear physics research community.

The planned funding will support training and research experiences for undergraduates, with the goal of increasing the likelihood that participants from underrepresented populations will choose to pursue a graduate degree in nuclear physics or another science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) related field.

“In a nation as racially and ethnically diverse as the United States, diversifying the nation’s scientific workforce is a continuing matter of high priority,” said Dr. Chris Fall, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “This pilot program will pioneer new approaches to attracting talented students of diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate study in nuclear physics and other critical STEM fields.”

The traineeships, designed for undergraduates, aim to provide students with a hands-on opportunity to participate in actual ongoing nuclear physics research in a team under the supervision of a principal investigator (PI). 

Typically, students will be expected to put in fifteen hours work during the school year and move to a full-time 40-hour week during the summer and will be compensated for their time. The traineeship would be the equivalent of a part-time job during the school year and full-time summer work.

It is estimated that traineeships will be funded at the level of $100,000 to $200,000, in the form of awards from DOE to the PI’s home institution, which will then hire the student participants. The awards will cover compensation for work and possible travel by the student participant as well as partial compensation for the PI and possibly a postdoctoral fellow to supervise and mentor the student directly.

By providing hands-on training and real-life research experiences, the program aims to create incentives for students to apply to graduate school and pursue science careers.

The funding opportunity is open to researchers working in areas within the current nuclear physics portfolio.  PIs can submit proposals to participate in the program by agreeing to take on one or more traineeships and recruit minority student participants. It is expected that many PIs and their institutions will reach out and partner with Minority Serving Institutions, such as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, for recruitment purposes.

In addition, the funding opportunity envisions the creation of a national center to coordinate the traineeship effort.

The hope is that a successful pilot program will eventually lead to more such efforts. Continuation of the program past the initial two-year period will depend on an evaluation of the program’s potential to increase diversity within the nuclear physics community.

Applications are open to DOE national laboratories, universities, and nonprofit organizations, applying singly or in multi-institutional collaborations. 

Total planned funding is $3 million in Fiscal Year 2021 dollars, contingent upon congressional appropriations.

The DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement, sponsored by the Office of Nuclear Physics (NP) within DOE’s Office of Science, can be found on NP’s funding opportunities page.