UW-Madison center makes better professors of young scientists

Sept. 12, 2013

by Chris Barncard

Ten years ago, UW–Madison set out to train a new generation of science, technology, engineering and math professors. As a result, over the next three years thousands of graduate students will learn from the best.

The UW-Madison-based Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) has received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation — funding that will help train 7,000 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows each year.

Those students, from major research universities across the country, are steeped in the latest discoveries and lab methods in their fields. It’s just as important, according to Robert Mathieu, CIRTL principal investigator and UW–Madison professor of astronomy, that they be prepared to take the reins and train students of their own.

“Fundamentally, the future faculty of the nation lies in today’s graduate students,” Mathieu says. “If we can enhance their graduate preparation in teaching, we can advance undergraduate learning across the nation.”

Mathieu and UW–Madison laid the groundwork with the Delta Program in Research, created with NSF support in 2003. With Delta as its model, CIRTL is creating a network of 22 universities to share expertise and facilities — bringing together faculty and students with diverse experiences in student populations, university cultures and locations.

The grant is third major NSF award in the past decade for CIRTL, which is administered by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.