Gail Jones, Distinguished Alumni Graduate Professor, to Lead Education Research Component of STEPS Center Funded by $ 25 Million North Carolina State Grant


NC State College of Education Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor and Friday Institute for Educational Innovation Faculty Fellow Gail Jones, Ph.D., will lead the educational research component of the new NSF Science and Technology Center – Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS) – located on the North Carolina State Centennial Campus and funded by a $ 25 million grant.

The STEPS center is a national research effort led by the state of North Carolina and eight partner institutions to reduce reliance on extracted phosphates and the amount of phosphorus that seeps into soil and water, by putting the emphasis on issues related to food safety and environmental quality.

Project researchers explained that current food production systems rely on phosphorus fertilizers, most of which come from non-renewable phosphate deposits mined outside of the United States.

Once in the food system, however, only 20% of this phosphorus is eventually incorporated into human food due to the multiple losses and efficiencies of the system, and the rest accumulates in soils and freshwater sources. Without interventions like the STEPS Center, the environmental, economic and sustainability problems associated with phosphorus will continue to worsen as the world’s population increases.

The STEPS center will allow researchers to work across disciplines to solve the problem.

“Convergence research that addresses complex and difficult ‘evil problems’ is new and little is known about how faculty and students engage in the cross-functional collaborations that will be required to do this essential work,” Jones said.

In his role as the leader of the educational research component of the center, Jones will receive $ 569,883 from the National Science Foundation’s five-year, $ 25 million grant.

His work will document and investigate how students develop basic technical and transdisciplinary knowledge and how they learn to work in high performing teams. She will also follow students as they progress through their graduate programs and document challenges, successes, and factors that contribute to their resilience.

As the mission of the STEPS Center includes work to increase the diversity of the STEM workforce, Jones will also study the experiences of women and under-represented students as they engage in convergence research.

“With the support of this grant, I plan to study student self-efficacy and academic self-concept and build a model that can inform the development of career interests and aspirations,” she said. .

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