HU Receives NSF Grant for Science Student Scholarships


Richard Medina

Las Vegas, New Mexico – Promising New Mexico Highlands science, technology, engineering and math students will receive multiyear scholarships with a special focus on research using data science, thanks to a National Science Foundation grant.

The five-year $661,868 NSF grant aims to prepare students in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, environmental geology or forestry for academic and career success.

Richard Medina, a computer science professor at Highlands, is the principal investigator or lead researcher for the grant.

“The data science component of this NSF scholarship grant is very exciting,” Medina said. “Data science is the study of how to make sense of very large collections of data. Data science is increasingly being applied in STEM fields.

“For example, the large collection of image data for x-rays can be analyzed to predict or detect diseases like cancer. We can find relevant data science problems in every science discipline,” Medina said.

The National Science Foundation grant is earmarked for high-achieving juniors and seniors who will be named ARMAS scholars. ARMAS stands for Achieving in Research, Mathematics and Science, a nationally acclaimed award-winning program at Highlands.

“The rigor ramps up for STEM students in their junior and senior years. This grant makes it possible for undergraduate students to receive $10,000 scholarships per year that make it possible for them to devote more time to research and finishing their degrees, rather than working second jobs,” Medina said.

Because the grant focuses on upper-division students, it will include more direct advisement on research projects.

“Our ARMAS scholars will have the opportunity to explore data science and apply it to their research. These in-depth research projects will make the students more competitive for careers or graduate programs,” Medina said.

ARMAS scholars who aren’t computer science majors will receive training in an existing computer science laboratory at the university to learn the software used in big data investigation.

“There’s a community outreach component to the grant where the ARMAS scholars will co-lead a weeklong summer data science camp for local high school students,” Medina said.

Medina said the grant also encourages internship partnerships with federal laboratories such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe.

Medina holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii in information and computer science. He joined the Highlands faculty in 2015.

Medina’s research is published in scholarly journals such as Journal of Information Technology and Politics, International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, and Journal of Learning Sciences.

Jennifer Lindline, Highlands geology professor, and Jiao Chen, Highlands chemistry professor, are the co-principal investigators for the National Science Foundation grant.

Medina said a selection committee composed primarily of Highlands emeriti science faculty will review the scholarship applications.

The application process for the ARMAS scholars begins in December. For more information, email Medina at

The National Science Foundation grant builds upon a previous NSF grant that funded ARMAS scholars at Highlands who were underclassmen.