Barnard recently received a $196,400 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to fund a select group of Barnard students interested in doing research in physics, chemistry, neuroscience, applied and pure mathematics, and computer science.
Computer science has been an area of significant growth at Barnard over the past decade: The number of Barnard students enrolled in computer science courses has risen from 30 to 309 over the past 10 academic years, Barnard will soon also have an endowed computer science chair, and the new Teaching & Learning Center will feature a computational science lab.
The grant came through the foundation's Clare Boothe Luce Program, which aims to encourage women to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Sophomores pursuing research in these fields—except for those on the pre-med track—will be able to apply for grants beginning in January. The grants will fund two full years of research for two cohorts of four students.
Barnard's Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Physics Timothy Halpin-Healy, who will oversee the grant program, said that the application will include at least two letters of recommendation and a transcript. A committee of professors will review the applications and interview the finalists.
Provost Linda Bell, who put the proposal for the grant together over the summer with the help of Halpin-Healy and four other Barnard professors, said that she is thrilled for students to have this opportunity to be recognized as Luce Scholars, a national designation that will give them recognition as upcoming scientific scholars.
Barnard has also used past grant money, such as the Beckman Scholars program award, to help fund the Summer Research Institute, a 10-week summer program in its third year that funds Barnard students' scientific research.
Bell and Halpin-Healy said this grant opportunity will work well in conjunction with the SRI because it is targeted to the computational sciences as opposed to the lab-based sciences funded through the summer program.
"The goal is to have some folks in place for the summer [of] 2016, to integrate them, and actually provide kind of an expansion of the existing and very successful Summer Research Institute that Barnard has run," Halpin-Healy said. "This grant will dovetail very nicely with that impressive initiative, so I'm looking forward to being part of making that happen."
After the grant money runs out, Bell hopes to continue funding the research program either through support from donors and foundations or by growing the program with the SRI.
"The idea is then to expand the Summer Research Institute into some of the other types of research and inquiry, and this is the first stage," Bell said. "There's all kinds of interesting things that could come out of this."
Halpin-Healy said he hopes this research opportunity will inspire more young women to make advances not just in computer science, but in other STEM fields as well.
"You're really empowered if you know how to code. It's like knowing how to do carpentry in the 19th century," Halpin-Healy said. "It's just part of a bigger collection of tools that every successful scientist needs to have at their disposal."