The National GEM Consortium is a network of universities and employers committed to achieving greater diversity in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) by supporting the careers of talented graduate students from underrepresented groups.
As part of a cohort of competitive research institutions, UW–Madison has helped fund more than 3,000 students working toward their master’s and doctoral degrees since the consortium first launched in 1976. Each year, approximately 1,400 prospective graduate students apply for GEM Fellowships, with 100 selected to receive fellowship offers nationwide.
Students who receive full fellowship will also connect with a GEM Employer Partner, ranging from corporations to non-profits to government agencies, who will sponsor the student during their graduate study. Employer Partners provide their GEM Fellow with at least one internship, allowing students to see how research related to their graduate degree can be applied in both academic and non-academic settings. UW–Madison also hosts GEM Associate Fellows, who have access to the on-campus GEM network and student resources while holding fellowships through their academic department or a Graduate Research Scholar (GRS) Community.
The National GEM Consortium also hosts events to help prospective students prepare for the graduate school application and selection process, called the Getting Ready for Advanced Degrees (GRAD) Labs.
UW–Madison GEM Fellows
Following a double major in physics and nuclear engineering, Margo Batie chose UW–Madison to pursue her PhD in Medical Physics. At UW–Madison, she works under the guidance of Professor Ron Wakai in a lab that uses biomagnetism to study fetal heartbeats. There, Batie performs clinical tests of devices designed to capture and analyze more sophisticated information about heartbeats than ultrasound machines can. As a GEM fellow, Batie not only funded her coursework, but also supplemented it with valuable internship experience. After completing her master’s degree, she spent the summer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Now, Batie continues to look forward – and her experiences as a queer woman of color inform her vision for the future. For Batie, Achieving meaningful diversity within the university requires hiring faculty who can serve as role models for members of underrepresented groups.
As a GEM applicant, Andrew caught the attention of Intel Corporation, whose sponsorship in turn gained the attention of graduate programs. As a master’s student in electrical engineering, Lambert focuses on microelectronics within cell phones, as well as quantum computing. Developments in these fields depend on interdisciplinary work, and UW–Madison appealed to Lambert for precisely this reason. Before beginning his degree, Lambert completed an internship at Intel as part of his GEM Fellowship package.
Patrick Cervantes is a GEM Associate Fellow and a PhD student in Medical Microbiology and Immunology and the graduate program in Cellular and Molecular Biology. As a member of Laura Knoll’s lab, Cervantes investigates host/pathogen interactions and focuses on a parasite called toxoplasma. By studying the mechanisms toxoplasma uses to manipulate a host’s immune response, Cervantes hopes to discover better treatments for the disease it causes. In the process, he oversees undergraduate students working on projects designed to support his own. With luck, they will also get “hooked” on research.
Barely halfway through his first semester at UW–Madison, the environmental engineering master’s student was already actively involved in student chapters of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Engineers Without Borders, as well as the Solid Waste Association of North America. As Westerband explains, his commitment to these communities mirrors the commitment the university made to him, by selecting him as a GEM Associate Fellow and funding him through the Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) program. Now, Westerband focuses on the environmental impacts of nano-silver particles working with advisor Andrea Hicks.
Hector Fuster, a PhD student in chemical & biological engineering, spent the summer before graduate school at 3M in the Twin Cities. There, he investigated methods of processing raw materials more effectively, building from undergraduate research experience in a laboratory working on next-generation cell phone materials. As a member of the Nicholas Abbott lab, he contributes to a research project that bridges disciplinary boundaries. Specifically, he examines how liquid crystals like the ones in LCD screens change when they react to surfaces. Fuster barely hesitated when asked whether he would pursue a career with his GEM sponsor: “I would work at 3M in a heartbeat.”