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Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program

Plan for your Doctorate

The McNair Scholars Program is a federally funded initiative established in memory of physicist and Challenger Astronaut Ronald E. McNair. It was created to help prepare undergraduates for their doctoral studies by providing necessary research and scholarly activities. The program serves low-income, first-generation college students, and/or students from a racial or ethnic group historically underrepresented in graduate education.

Become a McNair Scholar

Cultivate your interests, conduct research with a faculty mentor, and attend pre-graduate school planning workshops.


Priority Deadline has been extended! Apply Today!

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Who was Ronald E. McNair?

Ronald Erwin McNair was born October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina to Carl and Pearl McNair.

In 1971, he received a B.S. in physics, and graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina A&T State University. Ronald then enrolled in graduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in physics in 1976.

He received three honorary doctorate degrees and held a fifth-degree black belt in karate as well as being an accomplished jazz saxophonist. He was married and had a son and a daughter.

Dr. McNair became a recognized expert in laser physics while working as a staff physicist at the Hughes Research Laboratory and joined the NASA space shuttle program in 1978, where he was assigned as a mission specialist. In January 1986, Dr. McNair was aboard the Shuttle Challenger which suffered a severe malfunction, killing him along with 6 other specialists.

After his death, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage minority and low-income, first-generation college students to enroll in graduate studies. This program is dedicated to the high standard of achievement that Ronald E. McNair's life represented.

Ronald E. McNair
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Ronald E. McNair
Picture of a cartoon african american boy (McNair) Looking up at the stars

The story of Ronald E. McNair

Meet the Director

As director of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, Christina Chisholm is responsible for the organization, direction, and daily operations. Chisholm has nearly a decade of experience within higher education, coordinating academic and student support, along with managing summer and postbaccalaureate research programs.

Christina Chisholm