New NSF Grant to Support Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Students in the Geosciences

Dec. 14, 2021

AOS Faculty Member Sonya Legg, associate director of CIMES, has joined an NSF-funded effort that fosters participation and belonging among Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in the geosciences. The project, titled AGILE (AAPI in Geoscience: Inclusivity, Leadership, and Experience), is a multi-institutional collaboration and scholarly network. Brown University and Penn State are the leads of the initiative, with Princeton University among the partner institutions. Through a number of innovative and collaborative programs and events, the project aims to improve the awareness of geosciences among AAPI undergraduates and cultivate a national network of mentors that will boost AAPI participation in geoscience graduate programs and careers.



AAPIiG-AGILE: Logo by Caroline Juang.

Legg’s role in the project will focus on the Undergraduate Research Internship component that will connect students with meaningful geoscience research and learning opportunities, as part of the intern selection committee. She will also help recruit potential intern project hosts – hopefully some from Princeton and GFDL. Her vast experience with the CIMES intern program will no doubt prove valuable in this endeavor.

“The geosciences, which includes earth system and climate science, impact everyone, and it is therefore important that the geoscience workforce is representative of the whole population, and inclusive and welcoming to people from all affected groups,” said Legg. “In national conversations and initiatives to diversify STEM, AAPI students are not usually the focus, because Asian Americans are well represented in many STEM fields. However Asian Americans continue to be underrepresented in geosciences, in contrast to fields like computer science, engineering, and medicine.”

The grant, which was formally announced at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting on Monday evening, funds a number of exciting new initiatives, including a pilot Research Visit Program that will support short visits by faculty, graduate students, and other scientists to AAPI-serving institutions to bring awareness of geoscience careers and graduate school to AAPI students. The project also includes career-development events and workshops, in addition to the Undergraduate Research Internship that will be the primary focus of Legg’s efforts. The overarching goal of the project is to expose as many as a thousand undergraduates across the country to geoscience research and careers, establish a new research internship opportunity, and create national cross-career connections between AAPI geoscientists in diversity and inclusion discussions.

“Through this project we aim to introduce AAPI students, who may be majoring in other STEM fields, to the possibilities and opportunities in geoscience, through research internships and scientist visits,” said Legg. “I am excited to lend my expertise in developing an internship program through CIMES to this new project, headed by dynamic early career scientists at Brown and Penn State.”

The project is being organized by a team of eight scientists from different institutions, with Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Science, and Penn State’s Department of Geosciences as the leads. Daniel E. Ibarra (Assistant Professor, Brown University) is the lead PI on the project. He is an isotope geochemist and paleoclimatologist and a co-founder of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Geosciences (AAPIiG). He is a Filipino-American with a commitment to diversifying academia. Kimberly Lau (Assistant Professor, Penn State) is the co-Lead PI, an isotope geochemist and paleoceanographer, and a co-founder of AAPIiG. She is Chinese American and a co-founder of AAPIiG. In addition to Legg, the team also includes David Ho (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa), Sora Kim (UC Merced), Randye Rutberg (CUNY Hunter College), Jessica Wang (Bellevue College), and Sam Ying (UC Riverside). The majority of the Principal Investigators on the project identify as AAPI and are associated with AAPIiG, a new grassroots, member-driven organization founded by Ibarra, Lau, and Christine Y. Chen (Lawrence Livermore National Lab) in 2020.