R&D innovator sees value in closing the diversity gap in the STEM industry
CAMBRIDGE, MA—The demand for qualified engineering professionals is high, but the supply of engineers to fill these positions is at risk if underrepresented groups are not engaged in these fields. Underrepresented minorities’ share of doctorates in science and engineering was only 7 percent in 2015, which paled in comparison to the overall population of 31.5 percent.
Draper, viewing this gap as an opportunity, has established a relationship with the National GEM Consortium, an organization that for more than 40 years has helped underrepresented minority students enroll and succeed in graduate-level higher education. In 2018, Draper is sponsoring four GEM Fellows—Tolulope Ajayi, Ana Martinez, Caris Moses and William Tomlinson.
Sheila Hemami, Director of Strategic Technical Opportunities at Draper, says the company’s membership in GEM assists its effort to increase employee diversity in the disciplines most in demand by Draper customers. “It is important to Draper and to American competitiveness to ensure that underrepresented groups—including those in GEM’s program, including African-Americans, American Indians and Hispanic-Americans—have the skills necessary to successfully pursue a graduate education in the STEM disciplines,” Hemami said.
Draper excels at providing students with experiential learning. Since 1973 the company has sponsored the Draper Fellow Program, which has supported more than 1,000 graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in engineering and the sciences. Partnering with the National GEM Consortium supports Draper’s mission, says Hemami. “Because work at the graduate level is so research-intensive and individual, finding a community and a mentor or two in the business sector can make a big difference in a student’s satisfaction level. GEM Fellows include many of the most highly sought African-American, Hispanic and American Indian graduate students in the nation—and that’s just the sort of talent we value at Draper.”
The four engineers named by the National GEM Consortium to the GEM Fellowship Program include:
Tolulope Ajayi is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. With an interest in biomaterials and tissue engineering application, Ajayi’s work at Draper will focus on developing biomaterials as a drug delivery vehicle and modelling biological systems on organ-on-chip for various biomedical analyses.
Ana Gomez Martinez is pursuing a joint Ph.D. in bioengineering at UC Berkeley-UCSF. With an interest in point-of-care diagnostics for low-resource settings, Martinez’s work at Draper will focus on development of a toolset to identify genetically modified organisms.
Caris Moses is pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Moses’s area of focus is on robotic manipulation, or getting humanoid robots to perform complicated dexterous tasks with their hands. Moses is also a member of the Draper Fellow Program.
William Tomlinson, Jr. is pursuing a Ph.D. in computer engineering at Northeastern University. His work at Draper focuses on developing wireless communication systems for implantable and wearable devices that leverage the human body as a medium. A member of the Draper Fellow Program, Tomlinson is anticipated to join Draper as a full-time employee after graduation.
The National Gem Consortium
The National GEM Consortium, a nationwide coalition of universities and employers, offers fellowships and internships to African-American, Hispanic and Native American individuals to help them obtain advanced degrees and connect to careers in science and engineering. For more information, see www.gemfellowship.org.