A new schol­ar­ship pro­gram at North­eastern, funded by the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (NSF), will pro­vide sup­port to local stu­dents inter­ested in pur­suing degrees in sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering or math­e­matics (some­times called the STEM fields).

The five-​​year pro­gram, known as Investing in Tomorrow’s Engi­neering Leaders (ITEL), will launch in fall 2010, thanks to an NSF grant of nearly $574,500. Stu­dents from high schools in Boston, Cam­bridge, Med­ford and other local com­mu­ni­ties will be eli­gible to apply for the schol­ar­ship. Awardees will receive $40,000 toward their col­lege degree in the form of four $10,000 annual scholarships.

A number of stu­dents from the program’s partner com­mu­nity colleges—including MassBay, Mid­dlesex, Northern Essex, and Rox­bury Com­mu­nity Colleges—will also be able to apply for the schol­ar­ship and enroll at North­eastern as transfer stu­dents. These stu­dents will be eli­gible for three $10,000 scholarships.

Although the pro­gram encour­ages study within the wide range of STEM fields, offi­cials hope it will encourage young people to pursue lead­er­ship roles in engineering.

Northeastern’s ITEL scholars will have the chance to work with fac­ulty and staff on research projects at the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Sub­sur­face Sensing and Imaging Sys­tems, an NSF Engi­neering Research Center. The Gordon Center develops cutting-​​edge tech­nolo­gies to find hidden (sub­sur­face) objects and solve real-​​world chal­lenges, such as detecting breast cancer or assessing under­ground pollution.

The ITEL schol­ar­ships “will allow us to develop and sup­port a group of aca­d­e­m­i­cally tal­ented stu­dents in need who are inter­ested in STEM sub­jects,” says Abe Zeid, pro­fessor of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering, and prin­cipal inves­ti­gator on the grant. “They will expe­ri­ence the aca­d­emic, research and indus­trial sides of their field of interest and emerge with the skills nec­es­sary to become a future leader in engineering.”

ITEL scholars will be able to take courses in the Col­lege of Engi­neering and the Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ences, and will have access to men­toring and other sup­port ser­vices pro­vided by uni­ver­sity fac­ulty and staff. They will also par­tic­i­pate in Northeastern’s co-​​op pro­gram, working six-​​month stints at a local, national or inter­na­tional com­pany or orga­ni­za­tion, and gaining pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence in their field of interest.

Robert Case, pro­fessor of math­e­matics; Claire Duggan, asso­ciate director of Northeastern’s Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion; and Hameed Met­ghalchi, chair of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering, will serve as co-​​principal inves­ti­ga­tors of the ITEL project. Rachelle Reis­berg, director of the Women in Engi­neering pro­gram, and Richard Harris, director of Mul­ti­cul­tural Engi­neering programs,are also involved with the project.

The ITEL grant comes through NSF’s S-​​STEM (Schol­ar­ships in Sci­ence, Tech­nology, Engi­neering and Math­e­matics) pro­gram, which helps higher-​​ed insti­tu­tions offer sup­port to aca­d­e­m­i­cally tal­ented, finan­cially needy stu­dents who want to earn degrees in sci­ence or engi­neering disciplines.