Texas Tech University

Professors Receive National Science Foundation Grant Worth $600,000

Amanda Bowman

April 5, 2018

Abdul Serwadda and Jerry Dwyer will use the money to help high school teachers integrate data science and cybersecurity into school curriculum.

Abdul Serwadda
Abdul Serwadda

Texas Tech University's Abdul Serwadda, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, and Jerry Dwyer, a professor in the College of Education and director of the Center for the Integration of STEM Education & Research (CISER), have received a $600,000 grant, one of only 10 in this category given in the nation this year, from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Data science and cybersecurity are major areas in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) where the need to fill a role is greater than the number of people who are able to fill it. Serwadda wants to change that by exposing the current and future generations to them.

“These are two very hot areas,” he said. “We're hoping this sparks a fundamental change in the way these topics are taught in high school. We're hoping a whole new paradigm of high school-level curriculum will have significant amounts of work relevant to cybersecurity and data science immersion learning. If this research experience is successful, we hope other regions will adopt the kind of changes we are going to kick start.”

Jerry Dwyer
Jerry Dwyer

With the grant money, Serwadda, the principal investigator on the proposal, and Dwyer, co-principal investigator, along with their team, will work with high school math and science teachers in Region 17 school districts to implement data science and cybersecurity into the curriculum.

“The basic idea is to provide summer research experiences for local high school teachers,” Dwyer said. “Our plan is to have 10 teachers each summer for three summers. They will be on Texas Tech's campus for six weeks doing research. Then, they will work with us to develop curriculum materials that they will implement throughout the academic year.”

The Region 17 Education Service Center (ESC) is more than happy to support the proposed research experience.

“The Region 17 Science Department is proud to support Texas Tech in this new program, as well as Region 17 high school teachers who wish to participate,” said Michelle Sedberry, K-12 science specialist at Region 17 ESC. “This program will better prepare our teachers in these areas and, in return, our students will be better apt to selecting careers in these STEM areas.”

Being awarded this grant shows that Texas Tech is committed to having different departments work together for the betterment of the communities they serve.

“What I like about this program is it's another opportunity that shows how interdisciplinary work is so important at Texas Tech,” Dwyer said. “This project is a nice connection between computer science, CISER, educational research and outreach and teacher professional development. I hope we're furthering the university's mission of engagement with the community.”

Serwadda echoes Dwyer's sentiment.

“I'm looking forward to Texas Tech being able to do this major outreach to impact Lubbock and the areas around here with what we do,” Serwadda said.

Region 17 high school math and science teachers interested in learning more about the research experience can contact Jerry Dwyer, (806) 834-7399 or jerry.dwyer@ttu.edu.

Barbara Moskal, research professor at CISER in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, was instrumental in writing the proposal that led to the grant.

Other faculty members involved in creating the grant proposal who will participate in the research experience include:

  • Rattikorn Hewett, department chairwoman and professor in the Department of Computer Science
  • Fang Jin, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science
  • Faith Maina, professor of educational research in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction
  • Patriann Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction