CROWNPOINT, NM – Navajo Technical University Biology graduate Robinson Tom will be enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program at Harvard University this fall through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) PREM project. The opportunity was made available under the collaboration NTU built with Harvard in 2018.
The purpose of the PREM project is to build enduring pathways for undergraduate Native American students into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic fields by including diverse perspectives and methods of scientific inquiry in research and education. The work has included community outreach to regional K-12 schools, but also expanding research exchanges and internships. Tom had participated in each activity over the last several years, which made him the perfect candidate to transfer his knowledge and skill set to Boston.
“He’s going to be a role model for this NSF PREM project,” explained Dr. Thiagarajan Soundappan, associate professor of Chemistry and chair of NTU’ School of Science. “I plan on sending our students to Harvard for the next ten years.”
It was a year of accomplishment for Tom, who became the first to graduate from NTU’s Bachelor of Science degree in Biology last May. A few months later, he was published along with Dr. Soundappan for research activities related to non-flammable, aqueous gel electrolytes used to produce flexible aqueous lithium-ion batteries. The research was funded under Army Research Laboratory, and was accepted by the reputable Journal of Power Sources, a publication with an impact factor of 8.247.
“I’m really happy with this opportunity,” stated Tom, who is a resident of Little Water, NM. “I’ve come a long way as the first graduate. I was my own cohort. Hopefully the students after me will design their own path and pick up where I left off.”
Tom has long-term aspirations of returning to Crownpoint once NTU builds its School of Science to include programs in Physics and Chemistry. In doing so, he’d be interested in taking a faculty position. Dr. Soundappan also envisions him returning to help build a national laboratory inside the Navajo Nation. Enrolling at Harvard is the first step, which Tom acknowledges will be a challenge.
“That’s why I chose this program,” Tom explained. “I’m sure it’s going to be an uphill start, but I’m headstrong. I know I can do it.”
For more information about NTU’s School of Science or participation in the NSF PREM project, contact Dr. Soundappan at firstname.lastname@example.org.