ASU undergraduate’s science communication pilot program awarded inaugural JEDI grant

Bryanna Gutierrez-Coatney has won the School of Earth and Space Exploration's first Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Seed Grant


January 5, 2021

ASU undergraduate astrophysics student Bryanna Gutierrez-Coatney, of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, has been awarded the school’s inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Seed Grant from the school’s JEDI Task Force. Gutierrez-Coatney’s award-winning proposal is an education initiative designed to build awareness of physics and earth and space topics among students in Arizona’s Title 1 schools.

“The purpose of the School of Earth and Space Exploration JEDI Seed grants is to empower the members of our community and to foster grassroots efforts to create a more inclusive environment for all,” said school Director Meenakshi Wadhwa. ASU undergraduate student Bryanna Gutierrez-Coatney was awarded the School of Earth and Space Exploration's inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Seed Grant. Download Full Image

The project, officially titled “Bridging the Gap Initiative: Connecting ASU Students with Title 1 Schools Via Virtual Visits,” will explore the benefits of short educational talks on earth and space science and physics topics given to Title 1 high school classrooms by ASU undergraduate student ambassadors. In so doing, the project will support undergraduate teaching opportunities and provide outreach to 150 students in Maricopa County Title 1 schools.

For this project, Gutierrez-Coatney is co-advised by ASU Department of Physics associate instructional professional Anna Zaniewski, and School of Earth and Space Exploration faculty Patrick Young and Steven Semken.

While in high school, Gutierrez-Coatney initially struggled with math and science courses. She often felt disengaged and not smart enough to understand the concepts. Then she discovered scientific podcasts and YouTube videos, which piqued her curiosity and presented science in a way that matched her learning style. It was through this experience that Gutierrez-Coatney learned that she, like so many students, could learn to love science if it was taught in new and innovative ways.

“My relationship with studying science inspired me to write this proposal in hopes to reach low-income students who often struggle with the traditional approach to science learning,” said Gutierrez-Coatney. “I hope that with this award we can test out the effectiveness of science communication through Zoom and remote educational tools and reach students who have different learning styles.”

Gutierrez-Coatney would also like to see this grant provide more paid STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) opportunities for students.

“Many of my friends who are undergraduates in the Physics Department and the School of Earth and Space Exploration work minimum-wage jobs at coffee shops, restaurants and retail stores,” said Gutierrez-Coatney, who has also held minimum-wage jobs like these. “Going to school full time and working a minimum-wage job that was not physics-related made me question whether I would actually make it in the field of physics.”

Her solution is to create a paid opportunity for undergraduates to become student ambassadors for their field of science. She believes positions like these will help her, as well as her peers, stay engaged and continue to learn in these areas.

“With this grant, we hope to strengthen more undergraduate students’ science identities and to expose more high school students to topics that could pique their interest in STEM fields,” she said.

For Zaniewski, working with Gutierrez-Coatney has been a joy, and she’s delighted to help students share their stories.

“Bryanna has shown incredible vision, leadership and ambition in putting together this program, and it is a great honor to mentor her,” said Zaniewski. “If this pilot program is successful, we hope to both share and expand this science outreach model.”

About the School of Earth and Space Exploration JEDI Task Force and Seed Grants 

The School of Earth and Space Exploration JEDI Task Force empowers a just, equitable, diverse and inclusive environment by facilitating and promoting individual action, dialogue, education, long-term planning and systemic change. It was formed in 2020 and is chaired by the school’s associate director for an inclusive community, Associate Professor Christy Till, and composed of members from all parts of the school’s community.

“We are excited to award this first seed grant to Bryanna and her team as part of our work to incentivize justice-equity-diversity-inclusion (JEDI) work by everyone in our community,” said Till. “This pilot project not only supports earth and space science and physics curricula in regional high schools, it also provides paid teacher training and opportunities for our undergraduate students, making it a win-win situation.”

The school’s JEDI Seed Grant was established in 2020 to support several small pilot projects that focus on improving justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the School of Earth and Space Exploration community. Applications are due in both November and March, and ASU students, staff and faculty are eligible to apply.

To learn more about applying for a School of Earth and Space Exploration JEDI Seed Grant, visit the JEDI Task Force webpage.

This article was written by Araceli Vizcarra of the Department of Physics and Karin Valentine of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Expanding access and removing barriers to scientific research opportunities

Jenessa Shapiro Scholarship provides underrepresented students hands-on research experiences


January 5, 2021

The Department of Psychology at Arizona State University is working to provide students from underrepresented populations with opportunities for hands-on research experience, which can be the first step to pursuing a career in science. The ENERGIZE program connects ASU students from underrepresented populations with yearlong research positions in psychology labs.

One of the major roadblocks for students from underrepresented groups is the lack of financial support and resources. When other students are pursuing research in a lab setting, these students may need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, like Koop Bills, a student in the department who worked two full-time restaurant jobs for seven years while pursuing a psychology degree. Jenessa Shapiro Jenessa Shapiro graduated with her doctorate in psychology from ASU in 2008. Her research focused on stereotyping, discrimination and prejudices, and on promoting women and minorities. Shapiro was known for her dedication to mentoring and supporting underrepresented students and being a champion for advancing educational opportunities. She mentored hundreds of students over her career across multiple institutions, and this scholarship was designed to continue that legacy. Download Full Image

“Part of ASU’s mission is to give educational opportunities to nontraditional students who might have to work full time or have family obligations while they pursue their education,"  said Marisol Perez, associate professor of psychology. "The Jenessa Shapiro Undergraduate Research Scholarship will allow students who have financial demands to join psychology labs and participate in research — and will ensure that the psychology department and university do not miss out on training phenomenal future scientists.”

The Jenessa Shapiro Undergraduate Research Scholarship

The scholarship was created with a gift from Noah Goldstein, who graduated with his doctorate in psychology from ASU in 2007, in honor of his wife. Jenessa Shapiro graduated with her doctorate in psychology from ASU in 2008 and then joined the psychology department at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she taught until she died of cancer in 2018. Her research focused on stereotyping, discrimination and prejudices, and on promoting women and minorities. Shapiro was known for her dedication to mentoring and supporting underrepresented students and being a champion for advancing educational opportunities. She mentored hundreds of students over her career across multiple institutions, and this scholarship was designed to continue that legacy.

“Jenessa was committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and social justice, and authentically ‘walked the talk’ through her own substantial mentoring, research and teaching efforts,” said Steven Neuberg, Foundation Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology — and Shapiro’s graduate mentor at ASU. “She would be thrilled to know that this scholarship, in her memory, is aimed at supporting the goals and values that she so cherished, and was doing so at ASU.”

The first recipients of the Jenessa Shapiro Undergraduate Research Scholarship in the ASU Department of Psychology are Bills and fellow student Valeria Gutierrez.

Contribute to the Jenessa Shapiro scholarship.

Creating a psychology research pipeline at ASU

The ENERGIZE program began when Art Glenberg, a recently retired professor of psychology, realized that in his 12 years at ASU, he could not remember a Black student going through the cognitive psychology graduate program. He set about trying to create a pipeline, or easier path to begin a career in research, for students from underrepresented populations.

As part of the program, participating psychology labs offer flexible research opportunities to help overcome barriers like caring for family or commuting to and from campus, with the goal of providing research experience to students in spite of those barriers.

Erin Lanphier, a lecturer in the psychology department, chose the program name.

“I thought ‘energize’ was the perfect word for what we are trying to do for the students and also for the contributions they will make to the labs,” she said.

One of the first students to participate in the ENERGIZE program is Rebeca Alvarado Ortega, who is currently working in the Learning and Development lab with Viridiana Benitez, assistant professor of psychology.

“Some classmates in my research methods class talked about how their parents worked in research at ASU, but I am a first-generation college student so did not have those kinds of connections,” Ortega said. “The ENERGIZE program opened the door for me, giving me access to being involved in a research lab.”

In addition to learning how to design and carry out experiments and analyze data, Ortega has been trained on how to obtain informed consent from participants and how to use eye-tracking to measure where children are looking. Benitez also teaches the students in her lab how to network with other researchers, which led Ortega to a summer job as a research assistant at Duke University.

Ortega is now thinking about attending graduate school after ASU.

When Glenberg encourages students to apply to the program, he uses his own research as an example of how people from underrepresented populations can improve and strengthen scientific research.

“I start my pitch by describing how a goal of research in my lab is to develop reading comprehension interventions that work for dual language learners, like Latino kids and their parents. I then point out that I am not Latino, and what do I know about what is going to work in a Latino household? Translational research like mine needs students and researchers with appropriate backgrounds to help design effective interventions,” Glenberg said.

Learn more about the Jenessa Shapiro Scholarship and help grow the ENERGIZE program.