Navy grant to support diversity, strengthen Department of Mechanical Engineering

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
December 01, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Office of Naval Research (ONR) recently awarded Karen A. Thole, distinguished professor at Penn State and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME), a $200,000 grant to help develop a diverse and inclusive future naval workforce. 

“To solve today’s engineering challenges in energy, defense, environment, health and society, we need a wide range of solutions, which can be realized by attracting a diverse group of engineers who have strong technical backgrounds,” Thole said.

The grant will support four years of targeted engagement to recruit and prepare undergraduate and graduate students for an eventual career, enlisted or through funded research programs, in the United States Navy. Thole plans to accomplish this through the ongoing support of several existing programs within the College of Engineering, including the Engineering Ambassadors, the Multicultural Engineering Program (MEP) and an initiative called “It’s All About ME,” which brings together ME students to foster connections, pave the way for mentorships and share opportunities.

While populations of underrepresented groups in engineering within ME have steadily increased over the last decade, Thole said she hopes this support will bolster the trajectory even further and connect more talented students with prestigious opportunities. By making these targeted efforts, she explained her goal is to develop a diverse and inclusive pipeline of talented students who are equipped and well-suited for Navy career paths.  

“There are so many wonderful opportunities available to our students, including the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Program and the Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program,” Thole said. “We want our students to be aware of these programs and be able to put their best foot forward.”

To accomplish this, the ME department will provide lunch-and-learn sessions highlighting various Navy-funded programs and resources will be provided to interested students in preparing their application materials. In addition, ONR personnel will visit ME at least once a year to discuss relevant research and funding programs available to both faculty and students. 

“I’m confident that, with this support, we can both enhance the educational equity within our department and showcase the significant research opportunities the Navy can provide,” Thole said.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 01, 2020