CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with West Texas A&M University announced Monday that the university has joined a national collaborative research partnership aimed to help increase opportunities in the Air Force for certain students on campus.

According to a news release from the university, West Texas A&M will be participating in the Air Force Research Laboratory Minority Leaders – Research Collaboration Program, giving minority science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students and graduates more opportunities.

Officials say the program increases “collaborative research partnerships” between the organization and the university, engaging a diverse group of scientists and engineers helping address challenges in research to help support the Airforce’s air, space, and cyberspace technology needs.

“WT is eager to support and build this research partnership with AFRL while continuing to expand research opportunities for our students,” Angela Spaulding, vice president of research and compliance and dean of the WT Graduate School, said in the release.

The release said that the Air Force Research Laboratory Minority Leaders program has previously funded individual graduate student research projects. The goal is to create a national infrastructure, bringing students through the program and strengthening research connections.

“There are many benefits to this program,” Asheley Blackford, AFRL ML-RCP program manager, said in the release. “It creates a new source of quality university research with a highly trained pool of excellent student and engineering graduates. It also increases diversity of the workforce along with allowing access to innovative thoughts from culturally and scientifically diverse sources.”

Vinu Unnikrishnan, an assistant professor of civil engineering in the university’s College of Engineering, is West Texas A&M’s first recipient of the cooperative agreement with the program for the next two years. Unnikrishnan will work with the program on “composite materials” and their “applications of relevance” to the group.

“This ML-RCP collaboration provides a unique opportunity for our students to be able to interact with and work closely on cutting-edge research, which is in the forefront of technology,” Unnikrishnan said in the release.