Native STEM Portraits (NSP)

NSP is a longitudinal study on the experiences of Native STEM students, faculty, and professionals and the barriers and supports they encounter in STEM.

Lead Staff:
Mia Ong
Nuria Jaumot-Pascual
Project Staff:
Christina B. Silva
Lisette Torres-Gerald


This longitudinal study seeks to investigate the experiences and stories of Native STEM students, faculty, and other professionals in order to identify and make visible how they encounter, navigate, respond to, and are changed by the cultures, systems, and processes that either support or hinder the persistence of Native individuals in STEM higher education. The project particularly focuses on the fields of computer sciences and engineering; biological sciences; and mathematics, physics, and earth sciences.

Research Activity

This research has three interconnected research tracks:

  1. Track 1: Foundational Information – The team does a scoping review of the literature to search for relevant and representative literature that examines the current landscape of research on the recruitment and retention of Native students in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in computer sciences and engineering; biological sciences; and mathematics, physics, and earth sciences.
  2. Track 2: Native Experiences in STEM Education – The team conducts a longitudinal mixed methods study, including surveys and photo elicitation interviews, with Native undergraduate and graduate students in STEM as well as Native STEM professionals.
  3. Track 3: Systemic and Contextual Data – The team conducts interviews with Native and non-Native faculty, staff, and administrators about their experiences with providing supports to Native students in STEM. The team also meets with institutional partners to share findings and conduct interpretive focus groups.


This project provides a nuanced understanding of the Native STEM experience and a deeper understanding of the challenges and supports specific to Native students and professionals in STEM. The project will inform areas for future research and help to identify promising practices that others can implement. Specifically, it allows the team to give research-based recommendations to colleges and universities on the recruitment and retention of Native students in STEM.


NSP video featured on the STEM for All Multiplex October 2022 theme: Indigenous Ways of Learning

NSP Video Image


Photo Exhibition

The Native STEM Portraits Photo Exhibition will be on display at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) 2022 Conference in Palm Springs, CA, October 6th-8th, 2022. The photo exhibition explores the experiences of Native undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty/professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It will feature 16 photos from participants based on a study conducted by researchers from TERC, AISES, and the University of Georgia. These photos were submitted to the study in response to questions related to the supports and barriers they encounter as Native scientists as well as their interpretation of how their Native and STEM identities intersect to influence their experiences. Captions or quotes from participants will be included with each photo to illustrate what the participants were thinking about or feeling as they created the images.

Photos for the exhibition were selected to represent as many genders, tribal affiliations, career levels, and STEM disciplines as possible while covering many topics including: Native identity as a source of pride; the importance of giving back and Nation building for Native students’ and professionals’ persistence in STEM; a lack of sense of belonging in the institutions where they studied or worked; the financial barriers they experienced to continue their studies; the impact of the erasure of Native people; and the tension between Native ways of knowing and Western science. To protect the identities of the participants, pseudonyms are used.

Learn more here.


From Teacher to Social Science Researcher on Native Students’ Experiences and Community Cultural Wealth by Angela D’Souza

The Role of Giving Back and Two-Eyed Seeing for Engineering & Computer Science Indigenous Students Transitioning to the Workplace. Jaumot-Pascual, N., Smith, T., Silva, C., Ong, M., Madison, M. RESPECT 2024: Proceedings of the 2024 on RESPECT Annual Conference. May 2024. Pages 206–214. Retrieved from

“Being in STEM is my defense, offense, and torment.” The Perspective of a Native Hawaiian Student in STEM. By Devonian Locke published in Winds of Change Spring 2024

Unifying My Identities: Reflections from an REU Student, Devon Locke