Brandon Jones, a marine biologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a graduate of the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies, was recently awarded the Suzanne E. Olive Award. This national award is presented to those EPA employees who excel in promoting or providing equal employment opportunities through leadership skills and innovative and imaginative efforts.
Jones was presented with the award along with his fellow teammates on the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship Team. The STAR fellowship program provides up to $37,000 per year to support promising students in obtaining advanced degrees so that they can pursue careers in environ-mentally related fields.
"The fellowship team provided a level of outreach to minority students that was unsurpassed in previous years, resulting in a record number of applicants," says Becki Clark, director of the Environmental Sciences Research Division at EPA and who nominated the fellowship team for the award. Higher numbers of applicants provide a larger diversity of students, both in ethnic and scientific backgrounds.
"One of the reasons why this team did so well and got this national award was that Brandon worked very hard," Clark adds. "He's very personable and a great role model -- I think that students were really impressed by him. I don't think there would have been such a positive response by so many students if he had not been there."
According to Clark, the team used several channels to promote the fellowship program to students who have been typically underrepresented in the sciences. For example, they spoke at various science conferences that had diversity sessions and attended career expos at historically black colleges and universities such as Lincoln University in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, as well as at tribal and Hispanic colleges and universities. The team also contacted professors at predominantly minority schools and worked with former recipients to draw attention to the fellowship opportunities.
"I also am in the process of using some nontraditional methods to get the word out -- radio stations and Web sites that specifically target African Americans, Hispanic Americans, or Native Americans," says Jones. "These avenues of approach will hopefully increase the possibility that students who typically don't know that these opportunities exist would hear about them."
In addition to his work for EPA, Jones serves as a mentor in the Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science initiative, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Office of Earth Science and the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Geosciences.
He also is a mentor for the Minorities in the Aquatic Sciences Program, sponsored by the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. These programs were developed by and for underrepresented minorities with the overall goal of increasing their participation in the Earth and aquatic sciences.
Jones earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Lincoln University in 1991 and his master's and doctoral degrees in marine biology-biochemistry from the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies in 1994 and 2003, respectively. From 1994 to 1999, he taught science at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Maryland.