Author: Davis, Crystal D
Date published: April 28, 2011
Dr. Kenneth D. Lewis, dean of the College of Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology at South Carolina State University and the first African- American recipient of the Arthur Holly Compton Award, which recognizes contributions to education in nuclear science and engineering.
DI: South Carolina State's nuclear program received accreditation in just three years. How did you manage that?
First, we got an outstanding faculty. Then we were able to start recruiting outstanding students. Concurrently, I was writing grants for a laboratory of nuclear science and engineering and to get scholarship money to bring top students in here. We built one of the finest teaching laboratories in the Southeast for nuclear science and engineering. So it was a multipronged approach.
DI: What can we do to get more minorities involved in the sciences?
At South Carolina State, we started a program about four years ago called the Summer Nuclear Science Institute for high school students. We bring kids on campus for one week and teach them the basics of nuclear science and engineering. What we've found is that, even those who initially said they wanted to major in business administration, psychology, after that oneweek exposure, about 70 percent of the kids are in science right now. This is a way to get kids in. If they're exposed to science early enough ... I think that's the way that you get results.
We have another trick up our sleeve. We also implemented the exact same program in the exact same year for high school guidance counselors. We actually bring them on campus and put them through the exact same program that the students go through. They have since become our chief recruiters for top students.
DI: What has been the biggest accomplishment for the program?
Last year, there were 11 new Black nuclear engineers that were produced. Four of them came from South Carolina State. And last year there were only two Black females who received bachelor's degrees in nuclear engineering, and both of them came from South Carolina State. This year, we have eight people scheduled to graduate in May and one in December. Those nine represent more Black students in nuclear engineering than the rest of the country combined.