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Bioenergy IGERT graduates raise national numbers for Native American earned doctorates


Native American participation rates and earned doctorates in science and engineering remain stubbornly low, as reported by the National Science Foundation’s annual Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) website ( For example, there were fewer than two mechanical engineering and just over three agricultural sciences doctorates awarded on average annually to Native Americans over the most recent decade, according to the SEI data tables. These national numbers provide context for the 2012-2013 academic year, when two Native American trainees in the UW Bioenergy IGERT earned their doctorate degrees. The mechanical engineering and forest sciences graduates represent a 56% and 31% increase in doctorates over the national averages in their respective fields of study (forestry is generally categorized within agricultural sciences). These students join the other 9 Bioenergy IGERT trainees that have completed their doctorates, to date, in diverse areas of engineering and forestry. Overall, ten of the 32 Bioenergy IGERT trainees are indigenous people (Native American or Native Hawaiian). A unique feature of the IGERT program is that each cohort of students carries out a community-based renewable energy research project with a Northwest Tribe.

Cohort projects have resulted in several peer reviewed publications, a patent application, and a start-up company; these community-based integrative projects are also cited by indigenous students as a major reason for their participation in science and engineering doctoral programs. The University of Washington’s inaugural Graduate School Leadership Professor is carrying out an assessment of this IGERT program to identify and disseminate best practices for supporting Native American recruitment, retention, and degree attainment across the university.

Address Goals

Provides PhD education to a broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce and expands the scientific literacy of a historically underserved ethnic minority.