At the 2009 conference of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), held October 28-November 1 in Washington, DC, Dr. Alfonso Ortega, the College of Engineering’s Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research and the James R. Birle Professor of Energy Technology, organized a proposal-writing workshop for the most senior of the graduate students at the conference—those soon headed for jobs in academia.
The six-hour workshop was the featured event of the conference’s Graduate Institute, a component developed in recent years to address the needs of master’s and doctoral students. Co-presented by Dr. Ortega and Dr. Olivia Graeve, Associate Professor of Material Sciences and Engineering at Alfred University, the workshop offered students the opportunity to learn “best practices” in crafting proposals for research funding.
To ensure that the students received the most current, authoritative guidance, Drs. Ortega and Graeve brought in professionals who know the process better than anyone else: program officers from national funding agencies. Representatives from the Department of Energy, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), among others, read and critiqued the mock proposals that the students had prepared in advance.
The eagerness of the program officers to share their insights and feedback impressed Dr. Ortega. “They came with such enthusiasm, good will, and encouragement. The students were hanging on their every word.” In a separate session, Dr. Ortega, who is himself a former NSF program officer, gave an introductory talk on research to a more junior cohort of graduate students.
A longtime member of SHPE, Dr. Ortega recognizes the many benefits of the conference, which this year brought together more than 3,700 students and professionals. For educators especially, the conference “provides an opportunity to network with Latino and Hispanic professors who really understand why it’s so important that we, as senior faculty members, be active and serve as role models.”