Alexander E. Gates. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N), has been named a Distinguished Service Professor by the Rutgers University Board of Governors. The board made the announcement at its April 6 meeting. Gates is a geologist specializing in tectonics, with an emphasis on structural geology and defonnational-chemical interactions. He has played a prominent role at RU-N during his career, spearheading several outstanding initiatives aimed at helping underserved students gain access to opportunities in the sciences.

In its resolution honoring him, the board noted that Gates “has been recognized as an outstanding scholar and an effective and generous leader who has made a major impact in the recruitment of traditionally underrepresented students in STEM fields and on geoscience workforce development through his initiation of the National Science Foundation–funded Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (GS-LSAMP), which has changed the lives of hundreds of students throughout the state, from middle-school to university students, and has been replicated broadly outside of New Jersey.”

“I feel very honored to receive this award,” says Gates. “I develop these educational and outreach activities to help students-in-need to overcome obstacles and achieve success. The greatest reward for me is to see them graduate and find successful careers. To have Rutgers University value and reward something that I do for my own interest and desire is an unexpected honor and a bonus.”

A native of Monsey, NY, Gates earned his B.S. at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, and his M.S. and Ph.D. at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He joined the RU-N faculty in 1987, having previously worked at Chevron USA in New Orleans as an exploration geologist, and as a visiting assistant professor at Lafayette College.

At RU-N, Gates has served in various administrative capacities, including as Chair of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department twice for a total of 16 years, as Director of the Graduate Program for a decade, and as Vice Chancellor for Research for four years.

Gates, a resident of Cranford, NJ, has also served as Executive Director of the Highlands Environmental Research Institute, which coordinates environmental research, and disseminates and promotes knowledge in conserving the natural resources of the environmentally critical Highlands Region that spans Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

Professor Gates has brought his experience to bear on local institutions as well, serving as Scientific Content Advisor to the Newark and Liberty Science Museums, and as Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded Newark GK-12 Program, which placed graduate teaching fellows in the Newark public schools to teach STEM subjects.

But it is his work as Executive Director of GS-LSAMP that has stood out most.

LSAMP is a national initiative to recruit, mentor and support under-represented minority college students in pursuit of careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. More than 300,000 students have earned B.S. degrees since the NSF initiated it in 1991. Currently more than 200,000 students per year participate through 41 alliances involving 600 campuses.    

GS-LSAMP was launched in fall 2009 with a $5 million NSF grant. Under Gates’ leadership, RU-N has been heading a consortium of eight schools including Kean University, New Jersey City University, Essex County College, Bloomfield College, Montclair State University, Farleigh Dickinson University/Teaneck, William Paterson University and Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Five additional community colleges—all Hispanic Serving Institutions—are closely affiliated with GS-LSAMP through the Bridges to Baccalaureat (B2B) Program, which creates a pipeline for STEM students to make seamless transitions to 4-year colleges.

More than 3,000 students are participating in GS-LSAMP statewide. Nearly 200 of those are from RU-N.

FASN Dean Jan Ellen Lewis says that Gates is widely recognized as playing a pivotal role in national and state efforts to bring minority students into the fold.

“Alec Gates’s extraordinary record of service proceeds directly from his passion for research and his drive to teach. If he could, all by himself, teach earth and environmental science to every high school and college student in New Jersey, he would,” says Lewis. “He has had to settle for setting up the GS-LSAMP Program (funded at $8.5m), a partnership among virtually every college and university in Northern New Jersey that is achieving record results in advancing underrepresented minority undergraduates in STEM. It is no surprise, then, that Alec’s achievements through this program earned RU-N the designation ‘Bright Spot in Hispanic Education’ by the White House. This latest award by the Rutgers Board of Governors is well-deserved.”