Dr Reginald Blake wins US award

J'can physics professor gets highest US gov't award for STEM mentoring

Sunday, July 08, 2018

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Professor of Physics at The City University of New York (CUNY) Dr Reginald Blake is among 140 individuals and organisations in the United States honoured with presidential awards for excellence in teaching or mentoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for the year 2016.

The awards were presented in a ceremony at the White House two weeks ago.

Blake, who hails from St Catherine, Jamaica, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM).

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which administers the award programme on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the award is the highest honour bestowed upon mentors who work to expand talent in the STEM fields. (Kindergarten through sixth grade teachers receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)).

“This award substantiates the body of work that I have done over more than two decades in advancing STEM education. It has also provided me with a voice and a seat at the table, where I can help shape the future of STEM education on a national level. Additionally, it reinforces that my single mother's struggles and sacrifices for our family have not been in vain,” Dr Blake told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

Blake, a geo-physicist and water resources engineer with an extensive background in hydro-climatology, satellite and ground-based remote sensing, and physical oceanography, is a faculty member in the Physics Department of CUNY's college of technology — formally styled New York City College of Technology, or City Tech for short. He serves as chair of the Undergraduate Research Committee and is a member of the interdisciplinary, sustainability, and the study abroad committees. He also serves on the advisory board of City Tech's Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center, and is the director of City Tech's Center for Remote Sensing and Earth System Sciences.

In 2003, Dr Blake became CUNY's first African American tenure-track physics professor at City Tech, and in March 2016, he was named City Tech's 2016-2017 Scholar on Campus for reconceptualising scholarships and seamlessly integrating intellectual merit with broader impacts for City Tech, the City of New York, and the global climate science community.

Information from the university indicates that Blake has personally mentored and advised well over 1,000 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, which earned him citations from the NYC Committee on Higher Education for outstanding contribution to STEM education, in 2009 and 2015.

For the last 10 years, he has been the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI for numerous major STEM initiatives for the NSF, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Department of Defense.

Dr Blake earned bachelor's and master's degrees from City College-CUNY, and a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center, having done his dissertation research at Columbia University's NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS).

His entry into the field and his fascination with meteorology and tropical meteorology in particular, he said, was inspired by no less than Category 5 Hurricane Allen, which tore through the Caribbean in 1980.

“It inspired me to begin thinking about the atmospheric dynamics of nature,” he told City Tech in a previous interview.

PAESMEM award recipients are nominated by colleagues, administrators and students for their dedication to mentoring students who are often from under-represented groups.

Using the success of one of City Tech's mentoring programmes as an example of Dr Blake's impact, college president Russell K Hotzler said the award was well deserved.

“For the past 13 years, Dr Blake has directed City Tech's STEM-designated Black Male Initiative programme. Due to the national success of the programme, City Tech has become an IHEP (Institute for Higher Education Policy) Model Replication Institution. We are gratified by the recognition that the programme has received, and grateful to Professor Blake for his service to this college and its students,” said Hotzler.

Dr Blake's professional and academic affiliations include the Center for Climate Systems Research of the Earth Institute at Columbia University/NASA GISS, the Earth Institute's Urban Climate Change Research Network; the NOAA's Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center and its associated CUNY CREST Institute.

His research at the latter involves urban climate, the application of satellite and ground-based remote sensing to the study of hydro-climate, hydrology, hurricanes, and air pollution.

Dr Blake currently serves on the New York City Panel on Climate Change, the primary scientific body that advises and guides New York City's mayor on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and resilience building initiatives, and co-chairs the American Meteorological Society's committee for the Symposium on Education. He he has also served the NSF, IHEP, Project Kaleidoscope, and the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership.

Internationally, Dr Blake is the lead climate scientist for the US Agency for International Development and the International City/Council Management Association's CityLinks climate programme in Portmore, Jamaica. He is also a lead climate scientist for the international arm of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and its Urban Climate Change Research Network.

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