Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Singh receives NSF award

By Sandy Broughton

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 12 - November 9, 1995

College of Education faculty member Kusum Singh has received the National Science Foundation's prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, given to encourage academic faculty members as both educators and researchers.

Singh's CAREER award is the first at Tech made to a faculty member outside the "hard sciences." She will conduct a study of the family, student, and school factors affecting mathematics and science achievement in secondary schools. The five-year award totals $191,410.

"Most exciting is that this award gives a direction and focus to my research and my development as a faculty member," Singh said.

"This is a wonderful example of someone who has recognized the important connection between public-school education and achievement in the sciences-and how a university can work to improve both," said Wayne Worner, dean of the College of Education. Two of Worner's main restructuring objectives have been building better bridges between the university and public schools, and an emphasis on improved preparation of teachers in math, science, and technology.

Singh will include in her research the concept of social capital as an explanatory paradigm for young people's educational decisions, especially the choice of mathematics and science courses. She will use national databases from the Department of Education to determine the influence of parental involvement, encouragement, and expectations; student motivation and interest; and school factors such as tracking and student access to information and guidance. She also will assess if enrollment and achievement in science and mathematics courses by women and minorities are differently affected by these factors.

Singh came to Virginia Tech in 1986 as associate director of the Governor's School for the Gifted Program. She became a research associate in the College of Education the following year, and joined the faculty in 1989. She is a graduate of the Agra University in India, where she earned degrees in psychology and English. She received her doctorate in educational research and evaluation from Virginia Tech.

She has published and presented papers on the effect of part-time work on high-school grades, the effect of parental involvement on middle-school student achievement, and the effect of financial aid on college enrollment decisions. She also has researched vocational program enrollment and evaluation, and school-business partnerships. She teaches statistics and research methods courses required for all College of Education graduate students and frequently taken by social-science students in other Tech colleges. Last spring she received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

The NSF CAREER Award was established in 1994. It replaces the NSF Young Investigator Awards and three other NSF award programs, and incorporates their objectives into this new award.

With the award, Singh joins a select group of young Tech faculty members singled out by the NSF for early career support. In 1987, Charles Reinholtz, engineering, received the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award for research in robotics and interactive spacial mechanism synthesis. In 1991, Craig Rogers, engineering, won the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award for his work in developing intelligent material systems. 1992 Young Investigator Awards were given to Lamine Mili, engineering, for research in robust estimation theory, and Panayiotis Diplas, engineering, for research of hydrodynamic problems related to river mechanics. 1993 Young Investigator Awards went to Yilu Liu, engineering, for developing intelligent diagnostic methodologies for power equipment; James R. Martin, engineering, for research in predicting lateral movements in liquefied sands to more accurately predict earthquake damage; and Herve Marand, chemistry, for research and teaching in polymers. In 1994, Imad L. Al-Qadi, engineering, won a Young Investigator Award for developing graduate and undergraduate courses in infrastructure management and assessment.

Singh's award brings to six the number of Faculty Early Career Development Awards given to Tech faculty members in 1995. In July, NSF announced CAREER Awards for George Filz, engineering, for research in the use of bentonite as a barrier to ground-water flow; Nancy Love, engineering, for developing a single-sludge biological process for treatment of industrial waste water; Guo-Quan Lu, engineering, for analyzing deformation and densification behavior of powdered materials as they solidify; Brian Tissue, chemistry, for using lasers to study the surface chemistry of new phosphor materials; and Clara Chan, mathematics, for her study of the use of polytopes to analyze algorithms.