Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program


The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a U.S. Department of Education initiative which prepares undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. To be eligible, participants must be low-income, first-generation college students and/or must come from under-represented disadvantaged backgrounds and have demonstrated strong academic potential. Program staff works closely with participants as they complete their undergraduate requirements. Students will work alongside a faculty mentor who guides them through the entire research experience. Additionally, the office assists students with the graduate school application process and GRE preparation. Students are encouraged to enroll in graduate programs (Ph.D.) and their progress is tracked through to the successful completion of their advanced degrees. The goal of the program is to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from under-represented segments of society. FIU’s McNair Scholars Program is unique in that it primarily selects students from the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (S.T.E.M) disciplines.


Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair was an African American physicist and astronaut. Dr. McNair conducted research in the field of developing chemical HF/DF and high-pressure CO lasers at MIT. He also worked with many professionals in the field including the E’cole D’ete Theorique de Physique in Les Houches, France. After he graduated, he served as a staff physicist at Hughes Research Laboratory in Malibu, California where he developed lasers for isotope separation and photochemistry using non-linear interactions in low-temperature liquids and optical pumping techniques. In 1978, NASA selected him for the space shuttle program becoming the second African American to go into space. On January 13, 1986, he was aboard the Challenger STS 51-L mission, when it exploded 1 minute and 13 seconds after its launch. He is survived by his wife Cheryl Moore McNair and his two children, Reginald Ervin and Joy Cheray.

Dr. McNair received his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina A&T University and a doctorate in laser physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For his achievements, Ronald McNair received three honorary doctoral degrees and many fellowships and commendations. After his death, Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage undergraduate students with similar backgrounds as Dr. McNair to enroll in graduate studies. Thus, the program targets under-represented and low-income, first generation college students. This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair’s life.

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