According to a report from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Board (NSB), women, Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives remain significantly underrepresented among degree recipients in STEM fields relative to their representation in the overall U.S. population. Unsurprisingly, those same two organizations also found that underrepresentation carries over to the STEM workforce.
The NSF and NSB concluded that one of the most effective ways to address those issues is by “increasing participation in STEM fields of study and careers to include all socioeconomic and demographic groups and U.S. geographic regions.”
In 2021, in an effort to help address these inequities, Amazon announced the creation of the first Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program at Columbia University. Last year, SURE, which provides students from historically underrepresented communities with unique summer research experiences at top-tier universities, expanded to include Georgia Tech and the University of Southern California.
Today Amazon is further underscoring its commitment to bridging the diversity gap by announcing the expansion of SURE to two more universities via new multiyear commitments with Carnegie Mellon (CMU) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
“As we enter the third year of the Amazon SURE program, we are excited that this expansion will open up greater opportunities for undergraduate students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to participate in transformational research at top-tier academic institutions,” said Prem Natarajan, Alexa AI vice president of natural understanding. “The SURE internship fellows will have the opportunity to advance their interests in the STEM field and to receive guidance and mentorship from university faculty and Amazon scientists.”
Both schools were selected based on their commitment to STEM diversity programs and the strength of their computer science and engineering faculty. The two universities are also building on existing research relationships with Amazon.
The Graduate Research Fellows Program, launched in May 2021 at Carnegie Mellon, supports research in automated reasoning, computer vision, robotics, language technology, machine learning, operations research, and data science.
And in October 2021, Amazon and UCLA established the Science Hub for Humanity and AI, to support academic research, education, and outreach efforts in areas of mutual interest around artificial intelligence and its applications to benefit humanity.
“Exposure to research through research experience programs is essential in increasing the participation of students from underrepresented groups in graduate studies,” said Martial Hebert, dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. “Our participation in Amazon’s SURE will increase dramatically the scope of our undergraduate research experience programs. We are grateful to Amazon for their support in the development of these programs and their impact on the future cohorts of students.”
The Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at Carnegie Mellon will include a 10-week program from May 29 to August 4, offering computer science students from underrepresented groups the chance to collaborate with top computer science researchers for a summer. Selected students will work with faculty and researchers at CMU on research projects.
“We are delighted to expand the SURE program to UCLA,” said Stefano Soatto, vice president for applied science for Amazon Web Services AI. Soatto, who is on leave from his position as a UCLA professor of computer science, has taught at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering for more than 20 years. “SURE will provide diverse talent with opportunities to enrich their experience and continue growing participation in STEM disciplines. SURE fellows from historically underrepresented communities will be fully engaged in research projects at the cutting edge of technology and science, experience the excitement, and enrich it with their perspectives.”
The UCLA SURE Program at UCLA Samueli’s Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED) will provide students who are typically underrepresented in engineering and computer science an opportunity to conduct innovative and cutting-edge research for 8 weeks on the UCLA campus. The program will run from June 25 to August 19, 2023, and applications are open from now through April 2, 2023.
In addition to SURE, Amazon is also providing funding for the Mathematics Achievement Program (MAP). Launched by UCLA Samueli in 2022, MAP is an annual high-school outreach initiative that provides free weekend advanced-math lessons and STEM workshops to qualified students from the Los Angeles Unified School District, with the goal of addressing “mathematical deficiencies that often prevent students in underresourced schools from succeeding in advanced high-school math classes.”
In addition, each of the five SURE program schools will host a series of Amazon Days, designed to help students gain industry experience as a complement to their research-based summer experience.
Last year, Amazon Days were hosted at Amazon offices in Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles. They included Amazon-centric leadership activities where participants worked in groups, as well as networking sessions and presentations highlighting internship and job opportunities across Amazon.