Newswise — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory funding as part of the Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative, aimed at fostering diversity in STEM and advancing innovative research opportunities.

DOE announced $70 million to support internships, training programs and mentorship opportunities at 65 different institutions, including 40 higher-learning institutions that serve minority populations. By supporting these partnerships, DOE aims to create a more diverse STEM talent pool capable of addressing critical energy, environmental and nuclear challenges.

“To compete on the global stage, America will need to draw scientists and engineers from every pocket of the nation, and especially from communities that have been historically underrepresented in STEM," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "The RENEW initiative will support talented, motivated students to follow their passions for science, energy and innovation, and help us overcome challenges like climate change and threats to our national security.”

RENEW will offer hands-on experiences and open new career avenues for young scientists and engineers from minority-serving institutions. 

Argonne is partnering with six minority-serving institutions to mentor 24 undergraduate and eight doctoral students on research projects related to artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous discovery (AD), an initiative that is harnessing the power of robotics, machine learning and AI to accelerate the pace of science. Computational biologist Arvind Ramanathan is co-PI on the project, which is called Mobilizing the Emerging Diverse AI Talent through Design and Automated Control of Autonomous Scientific Laboratories. Argonne will leverage its AD facilities, such as the Rapid Prototyping Lab, where researchers identify common issues that can arise during AD and then quickly create and test solutions.

The lead PI is Sumit Kumar Jha, professor of computer science at Florida International University. Other university partners include Bowie State University, Cleveland State University, Oakland University and University of Central Florida.

The RENEW initiative leverages the unique capabilities of DOE's national laboratories, user facilities and research infrastructure to provide valuable training opportunities for students, faculty and researchers from underrepresented backgrounds. This project is funded by the DOE Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research program.