NSF HSI STEM Hub Summer Webinar Series Targeting Grantsmanship
– By Martha Desmond, Ph.D., Delia Valles, Ph. D. – Edited by Margie Vela, Ph.D.

COVID-19 may have resulted in the cancellation of our spring and summer Jumpstart Grantsmanship workshops across the country, but this national crisis has not derailed our efforts to work with the HSI community in grant development. We are working to help you prepare your submission for the 2020 NSF HSI Program (September 17 deadline) by hosting a summer webinar series. Join us every Tuesday on May 12-July 29 at 3:00 EST in our Zoom Room.
Webinars panelists include NSF Program Directors, experts from sponsored programs offices, and Principal Investigators who have successfully been funded through the NSF HSI Program. In addition to hearing directly from NSF Program Directors and recent HSI Program Awardees, webinars cover a broad range of topics. Panelist will discuss developing research questions, framing student success, project evaluation, institutional capacity building, and working with your research administration office to develop your budget. We have also included opportunities for questions within each webinar and devoted two sessions entirely to addressing questions that are submitted by our participants. We look forward to engaging with you on your journey to successful grant writing.
We recently upgraded our enrollment capacity to accommodate 500 participants due to high interest and enrollment in this training. We hope to see many of you at these webinars and encourage you to share the webinar series broadly with your colleagues.

Dr. Martha Desmond is a Regents Professor at NMSU in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology. She received her BA in Environmental Studies from Wells College and MS and Ph.D. In wildlife ecology from the University of Nebraska where she studied burrowing owl population ecology. She completed an NSF International Postdoctoral Fellowship working with the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua and Texas A&M. Her avian ecology research focuses on birds in grassland and aridland systems as well as urban environments. While working in the border region, she became interested in educational programs for diverse communities. Educational programs that she has developed have mentored thousands of students locally and nationally across natural resource fields, working collaboratively with federal agencies on the development of diverse workforces.

Dr. Delia Valles-Rosales is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at NMSU, where she received her Ph.D. She is originally from Mexico. Her research uses nature to inspire the development of innovative manufacturing processes, new processes of biomass utilization in the plastic industry, and models and algorithms for system optimization in agriculture, industry, and service areas. Dr. Valles-Rosales has been investigating various biomass resources as fibers to be coupled with polymers for fulfilling the need for new applications. Her research has studied the effect of materials and particle size on the mechanical properties represented by tensile, bending, impact resistance, and water absorption properties. Dr. Valles-Rosales is currently the NMSU Director of the Wheels of Change: A Consortium to Develop Champions in Agriculture in the Areas of Sustainable Energy and Natural Resource Management Program funded by USDA.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Impact of Faculty Networks on Individual Success
Dr. Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D. – Edited Margie Vela, Ph.D.

A career in science is a multidimensional endeavor. Many of us are moved with curiosity and enamored with investigation. Fascination with our science gives us the inspiration to make it through the day-to-day of research and teaching; yet as women of color in STEM, we often find ourselves in need of holistic personal and professional development. Many of us have powerful stories to tell about our journey in science and the academy. We all need support in times of transition, like the one we are all experiencing now. One of our HSI STEM Professional Network Members, Dr. Ivonne Santiago at the University of Texas at El Paso, shares what empowers her.

“The STEM Women of Color Conclave (SWOCC) has been the most inspiring and encouraging conference I have attended in my life. Among all the other women, I felt I could be myself in both personal and professional arenas. I give credit to these conferences for the professional trajectory my life has taken. They gave me the fuel I needed to continue my path and my journey.”
Before attending her first SWOCC, Ivonne was making her way back into the world of science and higher education after taking 3.5-years to focus on her newly adopted child and relocating from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico to El Paso, Texas.  Her career experiences included a tenured professorship at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez as a professor and researcher; and government work in water for Puerto Rico. Her attempt to re-enter the workforce proved quite challenging. Ivonne shares, “I quit everything to devote time to my family. I had to start from scratch as a lecturer. I had been told I had this ‘hole’ in my resume.”

The support she found at the SWOCC helped reignite her passion and empowered her to work towards a more equitable experience for women in STEM. “During the 2012 conclave, I was inspired by a talk given by Dr. Jacqueline Mattis. I remember her talk about using your spirituality to cope with adversity.  I took it to heart and realized my spirit told me, ‘This is the land you have been given, conquer it’.” Ivonne began actively advocating for women at her institution. She led panels on ‘Negotiating Life Demands and Career in Academia” and gave talks to student and professional organizations about women in STEM and family.

Her quest for equity at her institution continues as Co-PI of several of UTEP’s initiatives focusing on the success of LatinX students in STEM: NSF-AGEP, Department of Education’s (DoE) STEMGROW Program and “YES SHE CAN”. She leads a Learning Community for Diversity and Inclusion for Innovation at UTEP. She also serves on advisory committees to UTEP’s President: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and as Chair of the Women’s Advisory Council.  Additionally, Ivonne has received local and national accolades and awards for her work with students for teaching and service.  Most recently, she was awarded the 2019 El Paso Engineer of the Year by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, the first time awarded to a UTEP faculty in more than 30 years.
“I continue to revitalize and re-invent myself for the struggles ahead, believing and knowing that I am not alone in this journey and that I have support from my sisters, women of color. I can truly say that I owe much of my success, the inspiration and encouragement to be “gritty”, to inspiring speakers, workshops, and mentors of SWOCC.”

Dr. Ivonne Santiago is a wife, mother, engineer and teacher. She is a Clinical Professor of the Civil Engineering (CE) Department at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Dr. Santiago has a combined experience of over 20 years in the areas of water quality, water treatment and wastewater treatment in Puerto Rico (PR), New Mexico and Texas. As Clinical Professor, her main responsibility is to connect education to professional practice. This has been her mantra in everything she does inside and outside the classroom

Improving Student Focus During COVID-19

Tips for Improving Student Focus During the Pandemic
-Nicolas Mendez & Margie Vela, Ph.D.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the way students engage in courses. As the practice of social distancing is critical to reducing the spread of the virus, technology becomes more relevant to our ability to connect virtually. The HSI STEM Hub is working to collect and disseminate resources that can improve student engagement through virtual instruction.  Please visit the
HSI STEM Hub COVID-19 webpage at

Online teaching and learning are new to many students and instructors/professors. As we all navigate this new platform for learning, we have compiled tipsAncla[1] to improve student engagement and the effectiveness of e-learning:

  • Find ways to be interactive: Technology has provided a platform to continue effective communication in a virtual space that is very similar to face-to-face classes. It is important to encourage students to participate in class during lectures to keep them engaged. Virtual office hours and meetings are also critical for providing student support with course materials and to answer any other questions that may arise.
  • Create easy access to education resources: Part of the virtual classroom includes providing additional resources for students. There are numerous platforms available for virtual classroom management. Many of these resources are featured on the Hub’s COVID-19 page
  • Be flexible: Students and instructors alike are on a digital learning curve. Comfort levels vary for every individual when utilizing technology for submitting assignments or giving feedback on assignments, attending or holding class, or performing other tasks virtually. Keep in mind that access to technology (reliable broadband and computers) are not equal for all students. Being flexible is vital to student success.
  • Be supportive and accommodating: For many students, the transition to online learning is only one of the many changes they are facing. When a student seems to be underperforming it is important to reach out to them and ask if they are doing okay.
  • Use Projects instead of Testing: With high levels of stress and anxiety, access to technology, connectivity issues, and many other circumstances that can arise during the pandemic, it may be safe to assume that test scores may not accurately reflect a student’s aptitude or academic performance. A myriad of factors can have an impact on virtual test-taking. A semester-long project may be a better indication of students’ academic performance than test-taking in some instances.

Nicolas Mendez is a Master student in Industrial Engineering. He is from Bogota, Colombia and completed his Bachelor’s degree at La Salle University in 2018. During his professional career, he has worked in the pharmaceutical industry performing quality control, process analysis and cost evaluations. He is a member of the Recruitment Team for the Department of Industrial Engineering at New Mexico State University, working with middle and high school students to pursue a career in engineering. For his academic program he is working on research composites that will help to reduce waste in industry and re-use of environmental contaminant materials.

Publication Resources

A Mini-Review of Reference Management and Publication Record Software
Edmundo Medina, M.S. – Edited by
 Margie Vela, Ph. D. 

Publishing papers is a highly regarded scientific contribution that is a large part of the scientific enterprise. Managing references and publications that are useful in your field can become a daunting task while you are focused on writing a paper. There are several reference management software packages that can be used to manage references and bibliographies when writing scientific papers:

  1. Zotero – – Free
  2. Papers – – 3-5$ p/month
  3. Citationsy – – Free
  4.  Mendeley – – Free
  5. Endnote – – 100 – 250$
  6. RefWorks – – Free – 95$

Additionally, there are options to manage your own publication record and share it with the scientific enterprise. The most common are Research Gate and Unknown to many scientists, these are for-profit organizations. There are also non-profit options that provide open-access publication management:

  1. Zenodo ( is an open-access repository that allows storing data sets, research software, and articles. With each submission of data, a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is created, making all the work easily citable.
  2. LitDB ( is an open-source publication database that can be accessed via a web browser. It provides easy uploading and tracking of the user citation counts, H-index, and impact factor.

I recommend these platforms for publication tracking because they are open-access and respect privacy. I am certain that more of these platforms will become prevalent over time. I have a hopeful expectation that we will see greater capabilities for publication tracking in the future.

Edmundo Medina holds a medical degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez (UACJ), where he found a passion for understanding different biological mechanisms. For his Master’s thesis, he directed a project in the characterization of an ion channel in a heterologous expression system where he developed expertise with neural cell culture and whole-cell patch-clamp techniques. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate at New Mexico State University, focused on projects that combine his clinical knowledge with muscle cell culture and cannabinoid pathways for the treatment of neuromuscular diseases.

High Impact Practices

Inviting Students
– Margie Vela, Ph. D. 

As we work to diversify the scientific enterprise and create access to higher education for under-resourced populations, it is imperative to invite students into spaces that are new and unfamiliar to them. As educators, our responsibility to our students is to help them gain knowledge, skills, and confidence to operate in highly competitive spaces.
There are many ways to achieve this outcome. A few suggestions are listed below:

  1. Office Hours: First generation and underrepresented students often feel that office hours are reserved for struggling students, students with “intelligent” questions, or “smart” students. As professors/instructors, it is important to invite all students to engage in conversations and discussions about their disciplines; and possibly more essential to invite students to discussions with a professor. As described by Anthony Abraham Jack in The Privileged Poor, students from underserved high schools tend to come from schools where teachers are overburdened with classroom management, garnering resources, and student safety; and promising or average students are often overlooked. As this becomes the norm, some students tend to prefer to disappear into the crowd and avoid interactions with adults and professors. As educators, we can invite students to engage with us, which prepares our students for future interactions with peers, colleagues, and authority figures. Teaching students to form and balance these relationships in low-stakes settings can have an enormous pay-off in the future.
  2. Etiquette: I recently attended a dinner at one of the town’s finest restaurants. This dinner included a guest lecturer and student leaders from a local science-focused student organization. As we sat to have dinner, one of the student leaders expressed his discomfort in the “fancy restaurant”. It brought me back to my experience dining in exclusive spaces for the first time. It can be overwhelming for students to attend a conference, meeting, or dinner where a full silverware setting is placed at their seat; where they feel underdressed; or where they feel unwelcome. As educators, we can make a difference by hosting/organizing/or participating in a formal dinner with students in a learning environment; and inviting our students to join us for a meal. This skill can help land them a great job when they leave our institutions, as well as represent our institutions while they are in school.
  3. Leadership Development: Undergraduate students are well positioned to enter into leadership training through their time at college/university. It is imperative to provide students the space to learn valuable interpersonal skills while becoming familiar with organizational functions and structure. Writing grants that include components for developing science leaders from underrepresented groups through interventions for undergraduate students is one way to provide these opportunities to students. Then inviting students to participate is important to their engagement.
  4. Goal Setting and Pathways: A student recently reminded me that they came to school with a goal in mind (to be a scientist), but they had never been a scientist before, so they didn’t know what the pathway entailed. When we think about situations like this one, we often believe an academic advisor has the responsibility to inform our students. As institutions are frequently moving to centralized advising models, it is important to engage with students about their pathway to success. The plan includes much more than a course schedule that advisors produce. Our students need guidance to engage in undergraduate research, internships, and other experiential learning. Taking time to help first-generation and under-resourced students navigate these spaces is critical to student success. Inviting them to this conversation is an important step to engage.

There are many more ways to improve diversity in science. We can all make a difference for the many students we serve.

Margie Vela holds a Ph.D. in Water Science and Management from New Mexico State University and is a USDA NIFA Fellow. Dr. Vela has devoted her career to diversifying STEM through supporting and training underserved students. Her contributions to broadening participation of underrepresented groups in STEM include serving Delaware State University as the Assistant Director for the Science and Mathematics Initiative for Learning Enrichment; performing analysis on broader impacts as a National Science Foundation Summer Scholar;  and serving Child, Youth, and School Services for Fort Lee, Virginia as the Project Director for the HIRED! Program. She has also designed and lead workshops for college students and researchers on various topics including interdisciplinary research, complex socio-environmental problems, and college success. As a researcher, Dr. Vela has successfully engaged community-based research focused on the relationships of water inequity and educational attainment for communities on the Southern U.S. Border while mentoring and supporting three undergraduate researchers during her doctoral studies. Margie has served as a USAID volunteer consultant for rural organic farmers in Colombia for water use and organizational development.

The HSI STEM Hub prioritizes the health of our staff and the communities we serve. In an effort to maintain social distancing, the Hub is transitioning our grantsmanship trainings to online trainings, webinars, and certification programs. We are excited to be a part of the development of HSI STEM faculty all over the country. We will keep you informed as we release thesetraining materials and begin registration for our webinars.
If you have any questions, pleasecontact us at [email protected].