Advancement of STEM graduate education: Mental health

The U.S. National Science Foundation's Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) Program is at the forefront of a vital mission to discover and implement methods and resources that not only advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics education but also support the mental health needs of graduate students. This focus ensures both academic success and degree completion. Three distinct award examples highlight the program's support of graduate STEM students' mental health and underscore its commitment to fostering an environment where mental well-being is integral to educational achievement in the STEM community.


Enhancing Doctoral Research Training through Cascading Mentorship (Anteater Huddles)

University of California, Irvine. 

This program focuses on a mentorship model that transcends traditional academic guidance and recognizes the immense value of emotional and psychological support in doctoral research training. By facilitating a cascading mentorship system, it directly addresses the mental health needs of students, creating a nurturing and empathetic academic environment. This approach bolsters research skills and also ensures students are mentally equipped to complete their degrees. An example project from the program can be found on the university website.


Increasing Academic Success for Underrepresented Minority Ph.D. Graduate STEM Students Through Self-Advocacy Education

University of Illinois Chicago.

This program targets the unique challenges of underrepresented minority students, offering resources and training in self-advocacy to address their specific mental health and academic needs. By empowering underrepresented minority students to voice their concerns and seek necessary support, the program directly contributes to their mental well-being. This empowerment is a key factor not just in navigating the academic landscape but also in completing their degrees with a stronger sense of self-efficacy and resilience. Additional program information is available on the university website.


Graduate student experiences of support and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic

Montana State University.

This program takes a research-oriented approach to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on graduate student mental health. By identifying stressors and support mechanisms during these challenging times, the program provides invaluable insights into the resources needed for maintaining mental health and ensuring academic perseverance. This research is instrumental in shaping strategies that support mental well-being, helping students earn their degrees even in the face of global crises. Details of the study can be found on the university website.


By integrating innovative programs, IGE demonstrates a profound understanding of the interconnectedness of mental health and academic success in STEM graduate education. NSF's focus on finding and sharing effective methods and resources to support student mental health is a foundational principle driving the agency. Through initiatives such as those above, NSF helps advance STEM education and supports the minds that will shape the future of science and technology. This integrated approach is a testament to NSF's commitment to developing well-rounded, mentally equipped STEM professionals who are prepared for academic success and meaningful contributions.

Since its inception, the IGE program has funded 94 projects across 84 institutions in 35 states and the District of Columbia, including in 11 states with Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research programs, 27 non-research-intensive institutions and 17 minority-serving institutions.