New STEM Awards: Breakthrough or Bust? - Higher Education: Since 2012, 35 prizes have been given out in physics, life sciences and mathematics. Each awardee won a $3 million prize to continue his or her research—almost five times as much as the unrestricted $625,000, which was recently increased from $500,000, given to winners of the MacArthur Fellowships, or “genius grants,” in all fields.
After the first Breakthrough Prizes in math were announced earlier this summer, several scholars, however, say they doubted the generous prizes would do much to inspire members of groups underrepresented in STEM—racial and ethnic minorities and women—to pursue Ph.D.s or careers in those fields.
“How does this relate to students, increasing the pipeline? I don’t see how. It’s not connected to the pipeline in any way, if it’s not about students,” says Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, the Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair in the Computing & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida. Gilbert is also creator of Applications Quest, a software system designed to help colleges admit diverse classes of students without preferences.