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Keivan Stassun, Vanderbilt University

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. Awardees may choose to provide their latest biographical information on their profile page.

Dr. Keivan Stassun is a full Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University. He is a first-generation American, a first-generation college student and a first-generation scientist, earning his Ph.D. in both physics and astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1994. His mentoring philosophy over fourteen years of work is based on making full use of our diverse human capital essential to the future of our nation's global leadership in STEM, with a goal of increasing the historically low numbers of minority professionals in physics, astronomy, and materials science.

Dr. Stassun established the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program through a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award. The program partners a highly regarded historically black college/university with a major research university in order to prepare minority students as they make the Master's to Ph.D. degree transition. By completing a Master's degree at Fisk University under this unique program, students develop the strong academic foundation, research skills, leadership competency and service to society commitment that will foster a successful transition to the Ph.D. at Vanderbilt or other institutions.

Through his Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program, Dr. Stassun has mentored more than 60 minority graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, making Fisk University the top producer of African-American Master's degree recipients in physics, and Vanderbilt University the top producer of minority Ph.D. degrees in astronomy, materials science, and physics. His mentoring approach has led to an impressive 92 percent rate of persistence toward the Ph.D. (compared to a 45 percent national rate for minority students) as well as a remarkably high, 100 percent rate of post-graduation placement in the science and engineering workforce. His Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program has been emulated by seven research-intensive universities in the U.S., and the American Physical Society is currently working on a national scale-up plan for the program. Additionally, he has provided Ph.D. and Master's-level thesis supervision, as well as baccalaureate honors thesis supervision to more than 90 minority and women students over the course of his academic career.

Dr. Stassun is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was selected to be a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011. He is a former National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in K-12 Education (NSF GK-12 program) and, subsequently, an NSF GK-12 Postdoctoral Fellow. In addition to National Science Foundation funding, his research, educational and mentoring activities have been supported by a federal grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as well as support from the Ford and Fletcher Foundations. Dr. Stassun currently serves as a member of the Congressionally authorized National Science Foundation Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE), providing advice and recommendations to the agency on issues of diversity in STEM.