STEM

UC Riverside Receives 4.5 Million NASA Grant for Big Data Research and Education

The University of California, Riverside (UCR) has received a grant of nearly $4.5 million as part of NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). The grant will provide funding for a five-year research project called "Fellowships and Internships in Extremely Large Data Sets" (FIELDS), which aims to develop research and education opportunities in big data and visualization, according to information from the university.

FIELDS is a collaborative project between UCR, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the California State University system and the state's two-year community colleges. The program will train underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

NASA currently has nearly 100 active missions and collects about 2 gigabytes of data per minute. It expects that volume of data to increase by a factor of 1,000 in the near future, and is looking for better ways to visualize the data for analysis. The FIELDS project will support this goal through several research and education programs.

The FIELDS research and education initiatives include:

  • Undergraduate training and research for students in physical, biological, computer science and engineering disciplines at UCR and partner institutions;
  • A new master's course in big data and visualization, with students attending courses at UCR and doing research at JPL;
  • Support for doctoral and postdoctoral research; and
  • Support for high school STEM teacher training at UCR to help encourage more high school students to develop an interest in STEM fields.

UCR faculty and JPL staff will supervise the education and research activities. Each fall, students and mentors participating in the program will attend a FIELDS workshop at either UCR or JPL.

Undergraduates will complete two 10-week summer internships at JPL and receive a stipend of $2,000 each year. During the school year, they will conduct research with UCR faculty and receive a stipend of $3,000 each year. Graduate students will work with UCR faculty and JPL staff and earn an annual stipend of $70,000 for two years.

"A major goal of the project is advancement by students to research universities, gaining research experience, acquiring advanced STEM degrees, and taking up careers in STEM, including NASA employment," said Bahram Mobasher, professor of physics and astronomy at UCR and the grant's principal investigator, in a prepared statement. "We expect that collaborative research by JPL and UCR scientists and their students will generate preliminary results for further grant proposals to outside agencies."

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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