Last night, the House of Representatives passed an amendment, proposed by Congressman Rush Holt (NJ-12) and Bill Foster (IL-11), to restore the National Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUF) at the Department of Energy's Office of Science. The amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for 2015 was adopted by voice vote.
The NUF program supports a specific workforce need by encouraging participants to study fusion energy, plasma physics, and related fields. Additionally, the program has been remarkably successful in encouraging female participation in the sciences.
"Department of Energy labs provide world class user facilities that should operate both as hubs of innovation and important research tools to engage students from K-12 through graduate school. The National Undergraduate Fellowship Program is just one example out of many DOE education programs that are being threatened, and I hope that the situation can be remedied in conference with the Senate," said Foster. "Having worked at a national lab for 20 years before coming to Congress, I have witnessed firsthand how time spent with researchers and experiments can inspire a lifelong interest in science in young students."
"When young students and teachers are able to directly engage with our national labs it inspires an interest and passion for science beyond what any textbook or online resource could ever provide," said Holt. "I fear that in limiting educational activities to only the Education Department, we are further isolating the public from the important scientific research that is being conducted at our national labs, and we diminish science education in America."
The Division of Plasma Physics of the American Physical Society has a female composition of only 7 percent, yet 51 percent of female NUF participants enter into a Ph.D program, with almost half of those entering into a plasma physics Ph.D program.
The NUF program had been targeted for elimination under an administrative plan to reorganize federal STEM education programs. The elimination would reduce the number of slots available for students wishing to study plasma physics.
However, the NUF program is only one example of an ongoing effort to remove STEM education activities from the Department of Energy's mission portfolio.