CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — A West Texas A & M University professor was awarded an Air Force Research Laboratory grant aimed at supporting more minority STEM research.

The initiative is part of the ARFL Minority Leaders-Research Collaboration Program, a national research partnership between AFRL and institutions nationwide.

It addresses the nation’s air, space, and cyberspace technology. “They use this to support minority serving institutions, HBCU’s and MSI’s,” said Dr. Vinu Unnikrishnan, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at WTAMU.

WT said with it’s partnership with the program, it will increase research capabilities and opportunities for minority STEM students and graduates.

Dr. Unnikrishnan is the school’s inaugural recipient of the grant, which lasts for two years.

“This is on composites, the advantage of this program is it helps build our research capabilities, and also be able to collaborate with researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory,” he explained.

WT, which qualified as a Hispanic Serving Institution in 2016, said the diverse perspectives in research encourages growth in aerospace technologies.

“Graduate and undergraduate students are trained in this program and the focus is for them to be able to join the Air Force, or work force,” Dr. Unnikrishnan told us.

The effort has one specific goal, creating a national infrastructure and strengthening research connections.

“It gives an opportunity for students to get trained in topics of interest to AFRL,” Dr. Unnikrishnan said.