Tag Archives: STEM

#TechieVote14: Why the 2014 Elections Matter to Blacks, Hispanics, Women in Tech, STEM

By Talib I. Karim

Dems vs. Republicans

Many analysts say it’s a toss-up on which party will win control of the U.S. Senate, and that the election may not truly be decided for months.  However, in battleground states — Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa—whose election outcomes could shift power from one party to another—registered Democrats outnumber Republicans…by a large margin.

But without Barak Obama on the ballot, African Americans and other people of color, women, and youth (the majority of the Democratic base) might not understand what’s at stake in this election.

Given the absence of the excitement-creating Obama campaign machine, some also fear that interested voters may not have the stomach for long lines at the polls.  To cast a ballot in some state, a voter has to set aside as much as 95 minutes on average (factoring in commuting to/from work).

For science and tech professionals, particularly African Americans, time is a scarce commodity.  Thus, deciding to vote is a serious investment.

Five Reasons Why Black Techies Should Vote

So exactly what’s at stake for African American science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pros?  Here are five reasons why #BlackTechiesMustVote.

  1. STEM funding

While funding of STEM programs should be bipartisan, STEM policies have not gotten equal treatment by both major parties.  The Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives has slashed spending for R&D education programs.   In contrast, the Democratic-led Senate proposed to fully reauthorize the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act.  In so doing, the Dems plan would fund many of the nation’s federal STEM programs much more generously than the Republican-led House.  If Democrats maintain control of the Senate, Republicans may have more of an incentive to cut a deal that favors the Democratic STEM funding package.

  1. Survival of US Space Industry

To understand the connection between our national interests and voting for candidates who believe in expanding the nation’s investment in developing a new generation of innovators (young and not so young alike), you need only recall the recent double disasters for the US space industry.  First there was the October 28, 2014 explosion of an unmanned Orbital Sciences-built cargo spacecraft.  Three days later, Virgin Galactic space-tourism craft exploded in mid-air, apparently minutes after powering on its rocket thrusters.  Both accidents not only are losses to their funders, but a setback for the nation’s scientific and technological brand.  This election may very well determine whether and how fast the US regains its leadership as the best in space, on all levels.

  1. Green Energy

Do you believe pollution is damaging the environment and changing weather?  Do you see green in alternative and renewable sources of energy?  If so, a Republican controlled Senate may not look so good to you.

Case in point is the House-approved legislation funding the federal energy agency (DOE).  Analysts credit Republicans for increasing DOE’s R&D budget to $11.8 billion, 3.2 percent above FY 2014 levels.  Yet this funding is $611 million less than requested by the Obama Administration.  Instead of fully funding the President’s proposals in DOE areas such as R&D, energy efficiency, and education related programs, Republicans shifted money to increasing older fossil fuel exploration.  The bill also prohibits DOE funding for policy making work on the social cost of carbon or activities to slow climate change.

  1. Expanding Universities’ Success in Transforming Research into Profitable Businesses

There is a pair of bills in the House and Senate that would create grant opportunities for university and other researchers involved in technology transfer projects to help make it easier to move federally funded research into the marketplace. This pair of bills is jointly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.  Nevertheless, a strong showing at the ballot booth among African Americans concerned about STEM-related research and development would send a message to law makers to approve and forward this legislation to the President’s desk his signature.

  1. Can you spell D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y

It has been long observed that Republicans on Capital Hill tend to hire less people of color and women.  If Dems such as Mary Landreiu (D-VA), Kay Hagan D-NC), and Mark Warner (D-VA) win, then the people of color and women working for them are likely to keep their jobs, more are likely to get hired, and techies of color who advocate outside of government are more likely to get calls answered, emails returned, and resources needed to…innovate.


#SavetheSENATE: Operation Vote Techie!


Dear colleagues,

By now, you may have heard the predictions about the Senate being all but lost next Tuesday, Nov. 4th.  But the fact is…there are more Democrats than Republicans.  And if people of color and women vote…the Senate stays Blue!

What’s at stake, you might ask, in these elections —particularly for people of color and women in the science, tech, energy sectors?  Well first of all, STEM funding$$$.

While STEM funding should be totally bipartisan, the fact of the matter is that the Republican controlled House of Reps have slashed spending on programs that support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  With Congress entirely controlled by Republicans, even more STEM funds are likely to get the ax.

Next, the President announced an ambitious goal to create 1 million new STEM pros by 2022.  If the Senate turns Red, we are likely to see more barriers set up to achieving his goal, and thus less high-skilled workers, innovators fuel the economy.

Finally…can you spell D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y.  Republicans hire (and sadly help) less people of color and women.  If Dems such as Mary Landreiu, Kay Hagan, and Mark Warner win, then the people of color and women working for them are likely to keep their jobs, more of us are likely to get hired, and those of us who are outside of DC are more likely to get calls answered, emails returned, and resources needed to…innovate.

So, what’s next?

Would you like to personally take action to save the Senate?  Want to get involved locally with the Anthony Brown for Maryland Governor race, or the Karl Racine for DC Attorney General Campaign? Do you want to spend the weekend meeting new people, making contacts that can lead to future employment opportunities?

If YES is your answer to any of these questions, below are several ways you can get involved to Rock the Vote.

Let’s work now so we can celebrate on Election Night!

Talib I. Karim, Talib@TECRelations.com

#SavetheSENATE, #Brown4MD, #Racine4DC


Dems vs. Republicans

Save the Senate: Volunteer in Battle Ground States                          NC, LA, GA, AR, VA

Interested in making contacts with Democratic Senators, Senate candidates, and their staff?  If so, email your name, number, email address, and state you wish to work to talib@tecrelations.com by 3pm Friday.  Also indicate if you have a car or willing to carpool.


Talib-Anthony Brown

Help Anthony Brown Make History as Maryland’s Next Governor: Donate, Join Friday Call, Work the Polls…select option best for you

Option 1: Tech Leaders National Conference Call to Support Anthony Brown

When: Friday, October 31, 2014, 12:00 PM until 12:30 PM

Background: Join leaders from the science, tech and Howard University communities for an intimate conversation with supporters of Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown‎.  This call is being held to raise funds to support the #Brown2014 history-making campaign for Governor.‎

Dial In Number: 605-562-3000 (access code 830899#)


Host: $4,000 * Co-Host: $2,000 * Sponsor $1,000 * Guest $500 * Friend: $250

More Info: please contact: Tina Fletcher at (240)667-2321 or tinafletcher@anthonybrown.com

Disclosures: Individuals, corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies may contribute up to $4,000 to a Maryland non-federal campaign account during each four year election cycle (Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2014). Contributions to political campaigns are not tax deductible. By Authority: Friends of Anthony Brown, Gerard Boden, Treasurer. Friends of Ken Ulman, Jeff Davis, Treasurer

Option 2: Work the Polls for #Brown2014

Do you want to earn some pocket money between now through the end of the elections while helping Anthony Brown become the next governor?  Get out the Vote (GOTV) workers are needed from Sunday, November 1st- Tuesday, November 4th.  Must be prepared to work at least three shifts.

To Sign Up: Email your Full Name (Including Middle Name), Address, Birth Date, email, and phone number to talib@tecrelations by 3pm Friday.


Work Polls, Help for Karl Racine Become DC’s First Elected Attorney General

Wanted: 10 good people to work the polls for Karl Racine

When: Tuesday, November 4th, 7:00 am to 8:00 pm

Where: Assignments given upon signing up, must pick up supplies at Racine HQ, on Sunday between 12pm and 8pm

Signup Deadline: Friday, 3pm (email name, number to talib@tecrelations.com)


 BowserRacineSilvermanAre you Undecided DC Voter: Bowser, Racine, Bonds, Silverman   Top DC Muslim Caucus Slate of Endorsements; Bowser, Racine, Get Unanimous Vote in Poll

For Full Slate, Reasons: http://www.dcmuslimcaucus.org/election-press-release/


Conversation with African American Leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Series: University of Maryland’s Dr. Darryll Pines, Ph.D.

By Talib I. Karim
Health & Tech Writer

Dr. Darryll Pines, Ph.D., Dean of the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering (Courtesy).

On a wintery morning in early January of 2009, days before President Obama was sworn into office as the 44th President of the United States, another African American history moment was set to take place.  That day, Dr. Darryll Pines, Ph.D. took office as the 13th Dean of University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering.

In Pines’ opinion, his rise to lead Maryland’s engineering program, joining an elite club of African American Deans of top 20 engineering schools, was not “magical.”

Pines was born and raised in northern California.  In 1986, Pines earned a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of California Berkley’s School of Engineering (no. 3 nationally).  From there Pines headed east to the Massachusetts Institutes of Technology engineering school (no. 1 in the nation) where he earned his masters and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering.

Pines joined Maryland’s faculty as an assistant professor in1995, almost a decade after earning his undergraduate degree.  From there, Pines rose up the ranks at Maryland, leading the University’s program to increase engineering Ph.D.-bound students of color (1996), then its program to recruit more women engineers (1999), and the Department of Mechanical Engineering (2006).  Not all of Pines’ career was spent in academia.  Pines also worked on a team at the Livermore National Laboratory that helped develop a spacecraft now in display at the National Air and Space Museum.  Part of Pines’ time has also been in the corporate sector with companies like Chevron.

In an exclusive interview with the Afro American, Pines gives students and parents some straight talk on how they can pave their own paths to a six figure income through engineering.

Afro:  With the recent celebration of Dr. King’s legacy, what’s been the impact of his message in the tech sector?

Dr. Pines:  The impact of Dr. King’s dream in the technology fields has been a slow to evolve. While we are indeed graduating more minority engineers than every before, the pace of growth could definitely improve.  One positive sign is that today, along with myself, there are African American Deans at several major top 50 engineering schools including Georgia Tech (no. 4), Illinois (no.6), and Cornell (no.8).  We must pay particular attention to increasing our pool of graduate students and faculty of color.  Community colleges can continue to play a very important role for minority students in offering a pathway to four-year engineering schools.

Afro: Of your 3500 engineering students, and 198 tenured and tenure-track faculty members, what’s your diversity break down.

Dr. Pines:  We have 450 (nearly 13%) students of color, and 20 (10%) faculty of color.

Afro: Now are you including in those figures international students, because we understand that many university engineering schools are predominated by Asian and other non-native US students?

Dr. Pines: I cant give you exact breakdowns, but I can say that our graduate student population is approximately 60 percent international and 40 percent US.  And our number of US-born graduate students has been increasing each year.  At the graduate level, to increase our pipeline of native-US students, we have increased our efforts to recruit US students from numerous Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  This past fall 2011, 17 percent of our enrolled graduate students were from underrepresented backgrounds.

Today, its not like the way things were when I started engineering school.  Students of color early on just need a support network.  Its not rocket science to getting accepted into engineering school.  There’re lots of students in the pipeline in the Maryland, DC region.  The question is can they close out and get into schools, and graduate.  And I don’t really care if they come to College Park, I just want students, particularly African Americans, to go into science and engineering because we just need more scientists and engineers.

Afro: Once you get students of color in, what is your graduation rate?

Dr. Pines: Our graduate rate 56% which is impressive because the national average is 49%.  We put our best professors in lower level classes.  Once admitted, African American students can join the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) [the nation’s largest student organization], which provides internships, a network, and conferences.  And there’s a sister organization for Latino students, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.  That starts the network, and I benefited from these networks myself.  Today, some of the people I knew as students are running engineering programs in colleges across the country.

Afro: What is Maryland doing to help prepare its engineering school grads for the tough job sector?

Dr. Pines: If you’re a high school student debating what to study in college, and I told you that I could guarantee you a job making around $65,000 if you graduate from Maryland’s School of Engineering after graduation, I would be right almost 85% of the time (including acceptances in to grad school and the military).  Maryland engineering school grads have no problem getting jobs, there is still a large demand for people to solve technical and non-technical problems.

Afro: Economists and others point to a decline in innovation in the US as the primary cause of the ongoing recession.  What is the University of Maryland doing to reverse this trend?

Dr. Pines: Maryland has a reputation for helping to launch or create new businesses. Examples include Hughes Satellite Networks, MedImmune, and Martek Biosciences. In addition, Maryland added a second honors program curriculum in entrepreneurship for undergraduate students.

We’re also attached administratively to the Maryland Technology Institute (Mtech), which encourages faculty and students to launch firms, file patents, or work with corporations to translate their ideas into practice.  And Mtech is not just for the University of Maryland family, but for anyone with a good idea for starting a tech business in Maryland.  If we decide your business makes sense, we can offer you up to a year of near free housing, internet service, and administrative support to help launch your business [some businesses have been incubated for up to 18 months].

But given the economy, one has to be prepared for the reality that it’s more difficult to launch anything unless it’s a slam dunk.

Afro: How can an African American graduate of Maryland Engineering School or any other position himself to rise up the ladders of academia like you?

Dr. Pines: The people who head engineering programs around the country are all of my contemporaries.  I knew them in undergraduate school.  We’re African Americans who were afforded opportunities to go to top-tier undergraduate and graduate schools.  After graduating, if you want to teach and if you do reasonably well, you are given a chance to be dean.  With the right opportunity and right skills, you can succeed.  I know its not that simple, but its not magical either.

I’d add to those junior faculty members seeking to become an engineering school administrator, its important to put yourself to get the attention of the school’s administration.  A junior person must be willing to serve their university in a variety of roles to get noticed.

The writer can be reached at TKarim@teclawgroup.com