NYU Tandon and NSF Launch Experiment to Attract Women and Under-Represented Minority Groups to STEM Entrepreneurship

BROOKLYN, New York – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $500,000 to New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering to attract, instruct, and mentor student entrepreneurs — particularly women — in ways to use STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

The first cohort of students from across NYU has already been identified, and they will spend the summer enhancing the efficiency of fuel cells for electric cars; creating a fully functional, self-supporting polymer 3D printer; exploring ways to lessen food waste; analyzing urban geography through big data; and more. More than half the student teams in the first cohort will be led by women — a departure from national STEM trends. The most recent U.S. Census data revealed that although women make up nearly half of the working population, they represent only 26 percent of STEM workers. The percentage of those in computer careers – one of the fastest-growing segments — actually declined since the 1990s.

“We know that STEM entrepreneurship holds great appeal to all of our students but that misconceptions and apprehensions sometimes discourage women from participating,” said Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Jin Kim Montclare, who directs the new NSF I-Corps Site. “We believe that the chance to engage in STEM-based entrepreneurship and drive sustainable change through their ideas and inventions will attract aspiring female entrepreneurs, thereby helping to redress the gender imbalance we regularly see in STEM.”

The five-year grant comes from the NSF I-Corps National Innovation Sites Program, which nurtures a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon research and moves scientific discoveries closer to the actual output of technologies, products, and processes that benefit society.

The grant recipient is NYU Tandon’s Convergence of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Institute, which will work with the NSF I-Corps New York City Regional Innovation Node (NYCRIN), a multi-university collaboration that helps scientists and engineers expand their focus beyond the laboratory. NYCRIN helps researchers turn their discoveries into economically viable products and startup ventures, educates academic inventors, and connects them with entrepreneurial and business partners.

The NYU Tandon CIE’s multidisciplinary faculty and staff members, too, have track records of translating research into commercial products. They will aid up to 30 student teams per year from across NYU in doing the same. Teams will undertake a summer program based on Lean LaunchPad methodologies and will then begin prototyping their products and services. Class for the first cohort will begin July 17.

Among the CIE’s goals is to support diversity in STEM entrepreneurship, and to that end, teams with a desire to connect meaningful social change to innovation were encouraged to apply.

“We are excited by the opportunity to nurture our students’ enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and help meet the demand for inclusive education that will increase the number of female STEM entrepreneurs,” said Vice Dean for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Kurt H. Becker. “We feel particularly honored to have Chandrika Tandon, whose name our school bears, as a member of our leadership team. She is a stellar role model for any student determined to use their skills and talents to better the world.”

The new NSF I-Corps Site is part of a holistic approach to diversity that dramatically increased the proportion of women at NYU Tandon; last year, a record 37 percent of freshmen were female, well above the national undergraduate average of 20 percent.

Becker and Montclare are joined by other of NYU Tandon’s most entrepreneurial faculty members as part of the new program:  Associate Professor of Technology Management and Innovation Anne-Laure Fayard; Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Nikhil Gupta; Industry Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Michael Knox; and Technology, Culture and Society Lecturer Christopher Leslie.

About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, the country’s largest private research university, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.