Department of Defense Strengthens Research Partnerships with HBCUs, MSIs

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The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has announced that it is working to expand existing and create new research partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) through its HBCU/MI Program. David Honey, deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said it is crucial that the DOD, which has the largest research and development budget of any federal agency, provide more opportunities for underrepresented researchers.  

“[T]he DOD must continue to make strides in removing the barriers of equal opportunity in contracting and research partnerships,” Honey stated in an address during a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine town hall series. “This begins with developing an inclusive culture to help build trusted relationships between our university-operated contract laboratories and the HBCU [and MSI] community.”

The department currently has three affiliated research centers at HBCUs, including Howard University, the University of the District of Columbia, and Morgan State University (MSU) in Baltimore. The centers are working on projects related to artificial intelligence and machine learning, 5G cellular networks, and chatbots, said Honey. In September 2021, the department also awarded a total of $15 million to MSU and the HBCU North Carolina A&T State University to establish the Centers of Excellence in Biotechnology and Materials Science.

Additionally, the DOD offers the HBCU/MI Summer Research Program, an 11-week mentorship and STEM preparation program open to undergraduate and graduate students at MSIs. Its goal is to encourage more underrepresented scientists and engineers to pursue a career within the DOD. 

“We are striving to level the playing field for all research institutions, so that the best possible expertise is made available to the department,” Honey said. “The DOD strives to harness the technological and scientific knowledge of a community that represents the wide-ranging backgrounds of the American people.”

This article was published in our May 2022 issue.