Stony Brook University has hired the inaugural executive director of the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program. Erwin Cabrera, a researcher and higher education administrator who has led initiatives with similar aims, will develop this undergraduate program intended to bolster pathways to STEM careers for underrepresented students. Cabrera will join Stony Brook on Oct. 3.
Currently, Cabrera is director of the Research Aligned Mentorship (RAM) program at Farmingdale State College, which serves first-generation, low-income, and historically minoritized students and provides them with access to undergraduate research experiences and intensive mentoring. In addition to leading such programs, Cabrera has first-hand experience as a participant, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Meyerhoff Scholars Program — a program that provided a model for the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program. Cabrera also serves as the president emeritus of the Meyerhoff program’s alumni association.
Cabrera earned a PhD and MS in pathology (biomedical sciences) from New York University (NYU) and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from UMBC. He has taught and mentored innumerable students at Farmingdale, UMBC and NYU on everything from research methods to career opportunities through workshops, seminars and courses. He also has experience as a principal investigator on National Science Foundation (NSF) grants and has served as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Pathology at NYU.
With the Simons Foundation’s $56.6 million gift, the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program seeks to address the longstanding lack of diversity in STEM fields. The program will provide a holistic support system for up to 50 new STEM students each year, including scholarships, housing, research stipends, mentoring, internships, and academic and career advising. Although STEM employment has grown 79 percent in the past 30 years, Black and Hispanic workers make up just 17 percent of the U.S. STEM workforce, but make up 28 percent of the total U.S. workforce. Further, only 12 percent of full-time faculty at PhD-granting institutions are Black or Hispanic, a sparsity that is also observed in STEM higher education programs.
“I am extremely honored to be named the inaugural executive director of the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program and excited to embark on this new journey with the Stony Brook University community and the Simons Foundation,” said Cabrera. “I am guided by the quote ‘to whom much is given, much is required,’ and stand by that motto as a foundation to my passion for ushering in a new generation of STEM leaders. As mentors throughout my career helped nurture my curiosity and love of math and science, I am driven by the ability to do the same for the Simons scholars.”
“The depth of leadership and personal connection Dr. Cabrera possesses in the areas of STEM career development and support of underrepresented students in higher education makes him an ideal choice to lead this new program,” said Carl Lejuez, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “I am glad to welcome him here and look forward to the mark he will make at Stony Brook and more broadly in the diversification of STEM fields in the future.”
“Through his own experiences, Dr. Cabrera has inspired countless young scholars,” said David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation. “I look forward to seeing the enormous impact he is going to make at Stony Brook and beyond as he helps draw the brightest minds to our program and guides them as they build their own successful careers in the STEM fields.”
Justin Fincher, vice president for advancement at Stony Brook University and executive director of the Stony Brook Foundation, added: “Dr. Cabrera is deeply committed to advancing diversity in STEM and to helping students pursue their dreams. He will be an outstanding addition to our team. I cannot think of a better leader to help us launch this transformational program.”
The first cohort of Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars will be welcomed to Stony Brook in the fall of 2023. For more information or to apply to the program, visit stonybrook.edu/simonsscholars/.