Launch of “Idea Labs” for NSF’s IGE Hub

By by Kelley Karnes

Supported by the National Science Foundation and facilitated by CGS, the IGE Hub is an Innovation Acceleration Hub designed to support learning, dissemination, and collaboration among Innovation in Graduate Education (IGE) awardees and the broader STEM graduate education community.

As part of CGS’s efforts to expand the Hub and foster support of broader collaboration, communication, and impact across NSF’s IGE investments, we have launched a series of “IGE Idea Labs” that allow awardees to share their projects and expand their networks.

At a recent meeting in October, Rose Marie Ward, (PI) University of Cincinnati, previously with Miami University, and Himanshu Jain, (PI) Lehigh University, both presented on their IGE projects, sharing successes, insights, and opportunities for collaboration across campus departments. Highlights from these presentations are summarized below or watch the meeting on the IGE Hub website.

Interdisciplinary STEM Graduate Student Learning Communities (GSLC)

Ward, whose project is completed, gave a presentation titled “Interdisciplinary STEM Graduate Student Learning Communities,” a project she shared with co-PI’s Amanda Diekman at Indiana University, and Ellen Yezierski and Stacey Lowery Bretz from Miami University. The research team created the GSLC to help close the gap in basic skills that students need to transition from a doctoral education to employment with a focus on psychology and chemistry graduate students.

Their goals were to help students develop a professional identity, develop a sense of community, and increase their ability to communicate with non-specialists. They created a learning community that would meet over the course of a year in sessions every three weeks with their cohort.

Building the Program

Each session had a different focus, from helping students develop their own narrative, consider their ideal job, receive mentoring, and so on, and concluded with the students’ envisioning methods for building on their community experience.

Ward said that a key element of success was taking a full year to plan and create partnerships for the GSLC. She said that extra time not only gave them significant flexibility to develop curricula and onboard the students but also allowed them to come together as a team.

They welcomed their first cohort in the fall of 2019, pivoted to online in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic, welcomed their second cohort in the fall of 2020, and then integrated both cohorts for a research forum the end of 2021.

Ward noted that they wanted their students to form multiple partnerships across the campus, so they built in ways to help students find multiple mentors and create connections, beginning with the application process. Ward said her team also developed partners with the Graduate School, Center for Teaching Excellence, and the psychology and chemistry departments.

Ward said another key element was that they built in several avenues for communication for the graduate students— from discussing workload issues with their mentor to developing a shared language in their sessions so that everyone felt included.

Ward said that since the program did require a lot of time, they paid students and facilitators from the grant to be a part of the GSLC, and they are looking into providing course credit to make the program sustainable beyond the grant period. They are currently working with other departments at University of Cincinnati to scale the program across campuses.

Pasteur Partners PhD (P3)

Himanshu Jain, (PI) Lehigh University, discussed the implementation of the Pasteur Partners PhD (P3) program, which aims to engage and collaborate with industry partners so students can develop the mindset of how professionals address real life problems in their field. They are currently still in the grant period. The program is named after Louis Pasteur, a 19-century scientist who supported a use-inspired research approach to discovery.

In P3, each student starts with a summer internship with their corporate partner who helps the graduate student formulate the research question that informs the student’s thesis and provides mentoring and professional development. The student takes three to five one-credit courses in essential competencies irrespective of discipline and also completes an on-site residency, similar to medical school training. The fellowship also provides a stipend and full tuition for the duration of the doctoral study, or four years.

Establishing the Program

Jain said that the University has been highly supportive of the program, yet there were complications in the implemetation of the program arising from the internal budget structure that calls for sharing the graduate tuition dollars among different units.  He noted, however, the University understood that the benefits outweigh the potential loss of revenue and were able to incentivize faculty by dedicating a fraction of University fellowships to the top P3 applicants. The University was also able to help lower the cost to an industry partner that plans to support a P3 fellow by 35-40%.

Engaging industry was another opportunity for the researchers. Jain said they recognized that asking a scientist to mentor a student for four years was asking a lot, so they sought funding from federal agency programs that require industry-university partnerships for research. They also followed the NSF-GRFP model for projects sponsored by industry.

According to Jain, there have been several hurdles in engaging faculty. Initially, they held information sessions for all STEM faculty, which were well attended at the junior faculty level, but very few ended up joining the P3 program. The pandemic made communicating the program to faculty even more challenging.


Jain thinks that one of the reasons for a lack of senior faculty engagement is the current culture of research. The primary goal for faculty is to do research they care about, and doctoral training is often seen as a byproduct of getting the research done, not a primary goal. Plus, he stated, many faculty are concerned that changes would impact a student’s output in their research. The P3 program’s student-centered structure helps establish new norms and attitudes about doctoral research experiences.

Future Initiatives

Jain said they are trying a two-step process this fall to address these issues. They are first presenting the program to department chairs through the deans, meeting with them first to explain the program, and then get permission to present the program to a department faculty meeting. Jain said this has already generated significantly stronger faculty engagement.

To create a mechanism for helping faculty match with industry partners, the University has also hired a Research Engagement Officer to help faculty build industry partnerships. They plan to take the P3 program beyond Lehigh and create a consortium of universities.

Learn more about the IGE Hub

Learn more about the IGE Hub