Leading Minority Engineering Researchers Convene at Georgia Tech for National Workshop

In response to both a critical need for technological innovation and for ways to address the disturbing shortage of minority engineering faculty across the country, the Minority Faculty Development Workshop: Engineering Enterprise and Innovation was held at Georgia Tech from March 15 to 18.

Gilda A. Barabino
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Associate chair for graduate studies and professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. 

Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, Gilda Barabino, professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech, organized the workshop to bring together distinguished, talented and innovative engineering professionals to address this challenge, which is related to enhanced global competiveness and an improved national economy.

The workshop attracted more than 70 engineering faculty and innovators from Harvard, Stanford, North Carolina A &T State University and other leading institutions. Researchers who attended gained insight, resources and knowledge toward activities that support innovation, entrepreneurial endeavors and ultimately, the economic status of our nation, Barabino said.

As an internationally recognized researcher and educator and the newly elected president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, Barabino has committed herself to her technical career and to impacting the future by developing opportunities for innovation and career success among minority faculty.

“By providing opportunities for professional development linked to a better understanding of research innovation and translation, the [workshop] contributes to the development and retention of a well equipped faculty cadre,” Barabino said. “It broadens the talent pool for translational research that drives company formation, job creation, a healthy economy and global competitiveness.”

Georgia Tech Dean of Engineering Gary May, who was one of the conference sponsors, said the workshop is a positive step toward increasing underrepresented faculty in the STEM fields.

“Faculty are the intellectual life blood of universities, so faculty development is a critical issue,” May said. “This is particularly true for underrepresented faculty in STEM fields, as there are too few of us to allow any to be unsuccessful. I applaud the Minority Faculty Development Workshop for seeking solutions which will contribute to successful, enriched, and fulfilling careers for its participants.”

National Science Foundation Program Director Omnia El-Hakim stressed the importance of attracting more women to engineering.

“Women constitute 50 percent of the U.S. Population, but are not represented fully in the engineering disciplines nor in entrepreneurship,” El-Hakim said. “The NSF believes in broadening participation through these types of programs because diversification in these realms brings important perspectives in solving challenges of national concern while maintaining excellence.”

The NSF Minority Faculty Development Workshop: Engineering Enterprise and Innovation was the sixth in a series that began in 2001 with funding under the NSF Engineering Directorate. The workshop addressed strategic goals of the National Science Foundation and critical needs of the nation related to enhanced global competiveness and an improved national economy.