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NASA And UNCF Build Science Careers

WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected the United Negro College Fund Special 
Programs Corp. of Falls Church, Va., to administer a $1 million 
career development and educational program designed to address the 
critical shortage of U.S. minority students in science and 
engineering fields. 

The NASA Astrobiology Institute's (NAI) Minority Institution Research 
Support (MIRS) program in Moffett Field, Calif., is providing the 
funding for the four-year effort. The program will provide 
opportunities for up to four faculty members and eight students from 
minority-serving institutions to partner with astrobiology 
investigators. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, 
distribution and the future of life on Earth and the potential for 
life elsewhere. 

"Providing new education opportunities for minority students will both 
enrich lives and answer a critical need for proficiency in science 
and engineering," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "But just 
as importantly, the program is an investment to cultivate imaginative 
thinking about the field of astrobiology." 

The United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corp. will use its 
extensive database of 14,000 registrants to develop an online 
community to provide webinars, virtual training and videoconferences, 
and provide outreach and recruitment for program participants. The 
program's objective is to engage more teachers from under-represented 
schools in astrobiology research and increase the number of students 
pursuing careers in astrobiology. 

"Our nation's underserved populations are a tremendous resource on 
which we must draw, not just for science, but for everything we do," 
said Carl Pilcher, director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute. "We are 
extremely pleased that the NAI MIRS program will continue 
contributing under the leadership of such a strong and experienced 

Founded in 1998, NAI is a partnership between NASA, 14 U.S. teams of 
universities and other organizations, and six international 
consortia. NAI's goals are to promote, conduct, and lead 
interdisciplinary astrobiology research, train a new generation of 
astrobiology researchers, and share the excitement of the field. 

NAI is part of NASA's Astrobiology Program at the agency's 
headquarters in Washington. The institute initiated the MIRS program 
in 2002 as part of its mission to help train a new generation of 
researchers in astrobiology and increase diversity within the 
astrobiology community. 



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