A program at the City University of New York is trying to change the face of astronomy — literally.
As NPR reports, the AstroCom NYC program encourages low-income and underrepresented CUNY (City University of New York) students to study the sciences. This program, now in its second year, assists these students by providing scholarships, personalized mentoring, involvement with real astrophysics research, career guidance, fellowship opportunities, and support for travel to observatories and conferences around the world. They even throw in a free laptop and a MetroCard for NYC transportation.
The goal is to help these scholars “build a sense of belonging in the field, and inspires and prepares them for graduate study,” the AstroCom NYC website states.
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Scientific and technological minds are key to our nation’s growth, and we need all hands on deck to move forward. NPR notes that even though the country’s most famous astronomer, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is African-American, there is still a real lack of role models in the field. The report states in the past decade, only two percent of all the students earning doctorates in astronomy and physics fields were either black or Hispanic Americans.
The reason why there is this lack of representation is frustratingly clear. For low-income minority students, there is the devastating barrier of not being able to afford the years of advanced education that science degrees require.
Hopefully, programs like AstroCom NYC will help break this cycle and help bring the universe to more fingertips.