NAU, CCC launch partnership to increase participation in astronomy, planetary science and other STEM fields

Christopher Edwards in a lab with a student at a computer

Professor David Trilling, chair of Northern Arizona University’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science, has been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to launch a new partnership with Coconino Community College (CCC). The initiative will create a pathway for recruiting 20 CCC2NAU students into paid internships working in research labs at NAU. 

Working with multidisciplinary collaborators across both institutions, Trilling will bring underrepresented minority (URM) students into the program, enabling them to carry out research on a range of topics. The two-year project begins in August, and the first cohort of interns will begin in the Fall 2022 semester.  

“The key to this project will be using research as the tool with which URM students are recruited and retained in astronomy, and more broadly, in STEM fields,” Trilling said. 

NAU has an active astronomy research portfolio spanning a wide range of topics from asteroids to astrobiology, and this new project includes collaborators from engineering, informatics, biology and other areas. The participating students will gain valuable experience and learn technical skills as they use a variety of telescopes and other equipment in the NAU labs across many different disciplines. 

“We believe this project will help advance important research projects and result in conference presentations, publications and data products that will be impactful in their fields,” Trilling said. 

Nearly all of the $166,000 funding for the program will be used for the paid internships. The project, focused on both research and education, is designed to increase participation and retention of URM students in these fields, building on the CCC2NAU program founded in 2008. CCC2NAU provides an affordable and innovative way for students to complete a bachelor’s degree by attending CCC for their first two years at the lower community college tuition rate and enroll in NAU for their last two years.  

“We are excited about this new collaboration between NAU and CCC, which will provide research experiences for our students and help to fulfill our regional mission to our students,” CCC President Colleen Smith said. 

NAU collaborators working on the project with Trilling include:  

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