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Recently, NASA awarded $11.7 million to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) through the Data Science Equity, Access, and Priority in Research and Education opportunity. The awards will enable HBCU students and faculty to conduct data science research that contributes to NASA’s missions.

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According to the press release, the awarded projects have up to three years to establish institutes and partnerships to increase the number and research capacity of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students at HBCUs, accelerate innovation in a range of NASA  research areas, and prepare the future workforce for data-intensive space-based Earth sciences. The agency’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) and the Science Mission Directorate collaborated on the opportunity.

“The increasing use of data science at NASA and beyond really drives home the need for a future workforce with data science knowledge,” said Mike Kincaid, associate administrator of NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, which manages MUREP. “With our newest collaboration, NASA created an exciting pathway to find new talent at HBCUs.”

At Florida A&M University, a project will rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand the science of concentrated salt solutions and the formation of ring-like deposits called evaporites. Understanding the science of salt concentrations and the construction of evaporites will bring new insight into identifying where water may have existed. Water is a critical source NASA researches and explores to understand better other planets’ surface geology and the potential future of lunar and Martian exploration.

Through innovative data analysis algorithms, including ML/AI methods, a project at Morgan State University will produce a high-resolution, open-access, and user-friendly urban aerosol database focusing on the Baltimore-Washington area. The database will also be used in classroom teaching and scientific outreach, accompanied by online tools and educational materials bringing new, authentic Earth science education to local schools and communities.

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University will work with North Carolina-based HBCUs to harness data science for flood monitoring and management.

Prairie View A&M University aims to build an AI-based system to share interactive, instantaneous, and user-relevant Earth science information, making NASA science more discoverable and accessible to a broad audience. Click here to read more.

“NASA is tackling how to use the latest techniques in data science combined with the volumes of data produced by our missions to answer questions about our changing planet,” said Steven Crawford, senior program executive for scientific data and computing. “Working with students from HBCUs will not only engage the generation most affected by these subjects but will help NASA scientists and engineers address these challenges.”

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