The UT Austin Cockrell School of Engineering (CSE) kicked off its first-ever diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) Seed Grants program this year and awarded four biomedical engineering programs for their efforts. 

The CSE Seed Grant program is an initiative under a new, National Science Foundation-funded Center for Equity in Engineering. The initiative supports seed grants ranging between $3,000 to $5,000 for projects that aim to promote DEI.

The goal of these staff-student partnerships is to improve the biomedical engineering community for all levels of education, research focus areas, and personal backgrounds.

The Biomedical Engineering Learning and Networking Group (BELoNG) fosters an environment where students and faculty can learn from each other’s experiences and be successful, inside and outside of the classroom, according to its founder Brittain Sobey.

"BELoNG is here to connect freshmen and sophomores with senior student mentors, faculty, and staff to pursue academic success and cultivate an inclusive engineering community within the Department of Biomedical Engineering,” said Sobey.

Faculty advisor Laura Suggs said that her years of experience with other mentoring programs helped her realize the tremendous benefits BELoNG can offer and hopes the program will help students find a BME family and home—an effort that is already paying off.

“In my freshman year, I didn’t know many people and I did not have a good support group. In my spring semester, I met some of the upperclassmen who made me feel like I belonged in a family in BME and they went out of their way to make me feel like I belonged. That had a huge impact in my life, I performed better in my classes, and the experience made me want to do the same for others. When I first heard about BELoNG, I said to myself ‘I want to do this with all of my heart,’” said BELoNG peer advisor Christian Kocian.

Other BME program recipients:

  • Emerging Leaders in Engineering Seminar Series
    • Mykel Green (postdoc, BME)
  • BME Peer-Led Teaching Assistant Support
    • Nikhith Kalkunte (graduate student, BME)

  • Neuroengineering Research and Science Ambassador Experience for Cockrell Undergraduates
    • Rodrigo Osuna Orozco (postdoc, BME)
    • Samantha Santacruz (faculty, BME)

About the Cockrell School DEI Seed Grant program:

The Cockrell School of Engineering Seed Grant program is open to all students, postdocs, staff, and faculty. Faculty may participate in projects in supporting roles, yet students, postdocs and/or staff must be the project leads. The programs may include piloting new ideas, testing new initiatives, data collection on issues of interest, and more.

Areas of interest can include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved support of graduate or undergraduate education
  • Departmental climate
  • Understanding of unique needs of different populations within our campus
  • Mentoring practices
  • Student recruitment practices

Priority is given to topics about improving the experiences and increasing enrollment of minority undergraduate and graduate students.