NSF Director Highlights MRSEC-NTU Partnership
at the National Science Board 479th Meeting

May 5, 2022

The National Science Board (NSB) is the policymaking body for the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency that funds basic research conducted by U.S. colleges and universities. NSB also advises the President and Congress on science and engineering policy issues.

The Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM): Vision for Excellence at Navajo Technical University (NTU) in Research and Education in STEM (PREM VENTURES) is a partnership between Navajo Technical University, and the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Harvard University. The opportunity was made available under the collaboration NTU built with Harvard in 2018. As the first PREM based at a Tribal University, the partnership will build robust pathways for Native American students in STEM education and careers, from K-12 to undergraduate and from undergraduate to graduate programs.

The partnership, collaboration, and goal is to help students develop stem-based solutions to real-world problems in New Mexico. The Navajo Nation is severely affected by mining activities of heavy metals leaching from more than 500 abandoned mines that contaminate soil and water, which impacts the health of the Navajo people. The Navajo Tech-Harvard MRSEC PREM team is working together to develop low-cost electrochemical sensors for the detection of heavy metals. The successful implementation of these easy-to-use sensors has the potential to greatly expand the Navajo Nation's capacity for monitoring the safety of their soils, water, and abandoned mines.